KNOXVILLE —A year ago, after learning that many high schools were desperate for high-end math and science calculators, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, physics senior George Duffy began collecting them one by one.
Along the way, he met Clinical Assistant Professor Fritz G. Polite, director of the Institute for Leadership, Ethics, and Diversity and director of outreach and global engagement for UT’s College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. Polite has been coordinating many of UT’s efforts to work with the Paul L. Kelly Academy, an alternative Knox County high school.
On Wednesday, the collection project—dubbed Calculators to Classrooms—donated twenty-five graphing calculators and fifteen scientific calculators, which range in value from $15 to $100 each, to the Paul L. Kelly Academy. The total donation of calculators is estimated to be worth about $3,000.
Duffy and Polite were at the school, along with Jessica Hill, a senior in public administration and Spanish. Hill, of Knoxville, is president of Students for Education Reform, a new campus group working to close the achievement gap in America so that every student has an equal opportunity to education.
Duffy, of Nashville, who plans to get his doctorate in science education after graduating, said he got the idea to collect calculators last year after looking at a website where teachers from around the country post “wish lists” of items their schools can’t afford. The math and science calculators were at the top of the list.
Duffy had a calculator he didn’t need any more and could resell for only a fraction of its cost. He figured some of his classmates were in the same situation. Once he got a commitment from two friends to donate their used calculators, his Calculators to Classrooms mission was born.
Duffy said his first campuswide attempt to collect calculators—which consisted of setting up a table with a small sign on it—flopped terribly. Last spring, with the help of the Society of Physics Students, he got more creative. They set up a table offering free cookies in exchange for used calculators.
Meanwhile, Duffy got acquainted with Polite, who was looking for new ways to help the Paul L. Kelly Academy.
“A lot of the kids at Paul L. Kelly Academy had dropped out of school and are now graduating from high school and thinking about going to college,” Polite said.
Polite took Duffy to the academy and introduced him to the principal and some of the students.
“When I found out what they were doing at the academy, I really fell in love with them,” Duffy said. When he learned the principal was trying to purchase math and science calculators, Duffy offered to give them the calculators he had collected.
Duffy and Hill have applied to make Calculators to Classrooms a non-profit organization, which they will co-direct. They’re hoping the project will catch on across the nation.
CUTLINE: UT students delivered calculators the Paul L. Kelly Academy on Wednesday. Those pictured include, on far left, Bob Rider, dean of UT’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences, and academy Principal Kim Towe; UT student George Duffy is in the center, holding up three calculators, and to the right of Duffy is UT student Jessica Hill.
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