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School of Education class creates website to help Detroit teachers

Professor Leigh Hall’s class, The Politics of Reading, learned that the city of Detroit is in a significant amount of debt and that this debt is disproportionately affecting the Detroit Public School system.

When UNC students like Margaret Smith heard about the debt facing Detroit teachers, they decided to do something about it.

“There are elementary classrooms that don’t have heating. There are schools that actually don’t have any books,” Smith said.

Smith said the strife the Detroit community has experienced inspired the education class to help.

Anthony Aswad, a student in The Politics of Reading, gave the presentation that originally inspired the project.

“That was my first presentation that introduced our class to (Detroit), but — it’s a really collaborative effort,” Aswad said.

Aswad said a significant number of the teachers in the Detroit Public School system went on strike.

“Our part is supporting those teachers and supporting those children,” Aswad said.

Smith said the Detroit Public School system is being split into two systems — divided by old and new districts.

“They’re going to have the old school district take on all of the debt of the entire district,” Smith said.

“It’s in a ton of debt. The new one will be completely debt free.

“How do you decide which students deserve to go to a school system that is hundreds of millions of dollar in debt?”

Smith is leading a project to help the teachers by making a website to raise awareness for the poor school systems in Detroit. The website includes an Amazon Wish List made by some Detroit teachers asking for basic supplies.

Hall said they contacted Detroitteach, a Twitter account that is a voice for teachers in Detroit, and asked what the class could do to help.

“From there it evolved into teachers making these wish lists that are not just books, which is fine because they need so many supplies,” she said.

Hall said students do not typically undertake charitable projects like this.

“This is the first one that I have ever done, and I have been at Carolina for 11 years,” Hall said.

“It rose out of a need. The class is politics of reading. We were looking at what was going on in Detroit, and it naturally came out of that.”

There is no timeline for the project, but the students in Hall’s class are happy to keep working to help Detroit teachers.

“It’s pretty hard to not want to help if you see what’s going on,” Smith said.

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