INSPIRED IMPACT is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to purpose-driven organizations and passionate leaders and entrepreneurs who are making an impact in their communities and industries.



 

Stephanie Welsh is the Executive Director of RAFT Colorado (Resource Area for Teaching). Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn and learn more at www.raftcolorado.org.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?
RAFT’s mission is to empower educators to build their students’ minds through interactive, hands-on learning. For the past nine years, RAFT Colorado has been dedicated to celebrating and supporting great teaching by providing educators with skills and materials they need to create inspiring learning experiences.

 

WHY DO YOU DO IT?
Too often in today’s educational climate, we put the cart before the horse when it comes to teachers. Teachers from all backgrounds are consistently challenged with the need to engage their students while meeting state-mandated academic standards, and they are rarely given the budgets and the training they need to make it happen. In fact, teachers spend an average of about $500 of their own money on classroom supplies every year. RAFT ensures that educators have access to the inspiring materials they need regardless of the size of their budget.

 

WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
RAFT is a transformative organization with immediate impact. RAFT is committed to making sure that all Colorado educators have access to the resources they need to create meaningful learning experiences in their classrooms. Currently, RAFT serves 3,200 educators from 44 school districts across the state of Colorado, as well as over 25 community organizations. That means that RAFT impacts more than 270,000 students.

In 2016, RAFT launched a second platform, RAFT-On-Wheels, which takes our unique blend of inspiring educational materials and pragmatic professional development directly to educators who need it the most. We hope to keep growing this platform to serve even more teachers in rural regions.

 

WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
RAFT is inspired by the educators we serve. RAFT views teachers as the primary catalyst for student outcomes and believes that an investment in teachers is an investment in the educational infrastructure of Colorado. By supporting the efforts of educators, RAFT exponentially impacts the number of students who benefit from our resources.

 

WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
Our big dream is a larger facility, co-located with other schools and/or educational organizations to further enrich a teacher’s RAFT experience, plus dramatically expanding RAFT-On-Wheels so that we are busy delivering professional development supported by repurposed materials all year round.

 

WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
RAFT is forging partnerships with like-minded organizations that would be a good fit with RAFT in an educational campus environment. Financial and facility support to enable RAFT to own a facility large enough to house our 40,000 square foot resource center alongside these other organizations would make our dream come true.

 

WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
Our biggest challenge is ensuring that all educators in Colorado have access to the materials they need to engage and inspire their students. To meet this challenge, we have been using RAFT-On-Wheels to reach more educators in rural regions. RAFT’s teacher membership also grew 50% last year, which shows that RAFT is a truly essential resource in the Colorado educational ecosystem.

 

WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned at RAFT is that collaboration is the key to success. RAFT is a locus of community engagement and would not exist without the Colorado businesses, community members, and educational organizations that support our mission.

 

HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
There are many ways to support RAFT. We gladly accept financial contributions, material donations and volunteers. RAFT is only possible because of the generosity of our funders. To make a donation to RAFT or learn about volunteer opportunities, visit www.raftcolorado.org.

 


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