I have been proud to work for Next Jump for over three years, but have never been as proud to be a "NextJumper" as I am today. Last week, I had the opportunity to visit two schools with projects funded through OO.com with my colleague John. From meeting first-class educators, to experiencing a school day from a child's perspective, the trip moved me beyond what I could have imagined.

Our first stop was Andrew Cooke Magnet Elementary in Waukegan, Illinois. The school receives little support from the state in terms of funding, but is blessed with motivated teachers and engaged parents who rally to gain support for their projects on OO.com.

OO.com has funded eight projects for Cooke Elementary, from paint used for murals now brightening up the school exterior to replacement keyboards and headphones in the music classroom previously from 1972! One teacher shared that art supplies funded through OO.com arrived before any provided by the district. Without OO.com, her art class would have been without basics like markers and colored pencils for two months into the school year!

It was such a joy to speak to all the teachers who were excited to meet us and eager to share their funded projects. Next Jump has a mission "to do the little things that allow others to do the great things they are meant to do," and it was clear that the extra funding helped achieve greatness all over Cooke Elementary.

After our first visit, we had only a few hours to digest out experience until we were flying across the country to our second stop, Vineland School in Rio Linda, California. A preschool for children with special needs, Vineland teachers work to instill students with basic communication skills and ultimately develop independence. Skills they acquire at that age will exponentially impact their future, especially when they move on to grade school. Government funding is also sparse in Rio Linda and parents are unable to contribute extra financially. Many of the children have difficult home lives and come to school wearing the same clothing two to three days a week. To them, Vineland is a cornerstone and often their best opportunity to succeed.

Soon after we started One=One, OO.com com funded a mega-project for Vineland-- a $14,000 piece of technology called TAP-it. "This was a BIG DEAL," said Ms. Paula, the teacher who submitted the project. "There is no way we could have gotten the TAP-it without OO.com." It was incredible to see how this one piece of technology could alter the classroom experience for so many children. Students watch each other play educational games on the TAP-it while encouraging and applauding each other. Ms. Paula explained that TAP-it helps the children be social and support one another which is particularly difficult for children with autism.

Additionally, OO.com funded equipment for iLs, a multi-sensory program clinically proven to improve language skills and emotional/psychological functions. "Kids that have worked with the iLs have made huge strides, one boy began to speak, and another quickly transformed his handwriting into legible letters," Ms. Paula shared.

After hearing such personal stories like this at Vineland and seeing funded projects in action at Cooke Elementary, our first and only thought was, how can we do more? If this is what we can do by donating 1%-- imagine what we can accomplish with 2%, 5%, or 50%!

I always knew that OO.com was making great strides in public schools, but seeing the impact firsthand was a game changer. I'm now more inspired and energized than ever to put more into OO.com and wish we could have brought more of the team with us.

A special thanks to Julie Ahern and Paula Ramsay who acted as our hosts on this trip-- it was truly inspiring to meet you. Both of you are extraordinary teachers with so much passion and love for what you do. Thank you for sharing your classrooms with us! John and I are already looking forward to our next visit.

Best,

Laura Robertson
Director, Merchant Services