What does data have to do with dry-erase markers? Everything if you’re looking to help teachers stock their classrooms with supplies they actually need. 

That was the goal of a recent SAS Data Drive – a school-supply donation drive with a special focus on data – conducted by SAS’ United in STEM summer interns. And the result was an impressive turnout of donations of precisely the types of supplies teachers are looking for. 

Teachers shopping for supplies
Sixty-one teachers were able to pick out their most-needed classroom supplies at the SAS Shopping Day.

Overall, more than $5,000 worth of supplies were donated during the drive. About 1,200 items – a value of more than $3,000 – were collected around SAS campus for Wake Ed Partnership’s Tools4Schools program, which lets teachers “shop” for free supplies for their classrooms. Another $2,228 worth of items was purchased through a custom data-driven Amazon wish list.

“As a former educator, I know what it’s like to have to buy your own supplies and buy your student's supplies,” says Sheneika Simmons, program manager with WakeEd Partnership. “Knowing that teachers spend more than $500 out of pocket (each year) for their students to have a successful learning environment can be extremely frustrating. Tools4Schools is trying to mitigate that issue. It’s our job to support them and their efforts to educate our youth.” 

Interns branching out

The United in STEM interns self-selected into four teams – Data Science, Operations, Events and Marketing – with each team mentored by full-time SAS employees in those fields.

The Data Science team created visualizations to give insight into the amounts and types of items collected, monetary value, where most items were donated and trends over time. 

With Operations defining and tracking progress, Events getting donation bins created and handling the shopping day, and Marketing spreading the word through numerous channels – including creating an interactive quiz – interns got to play various roles in making the drive a success.

By identifying the most-needed supplies – dry-erase lap whiteboards, dry-erase markers and graph paper were among the top requests – the interns were able to target those for donation, assuring that teachers would arrive on shopping day to find exactly what they were looking for.  

data visualization of items collected
This dashboard created by the Data Science team of interns analyzed the items collected during the drive.

Tools4Schools only began as a program this year, and it was the first time using it for most of the 61 teachers who came to spend their “points” in exchange for classroom supplies at the SAS shopping day on July 28. 

The teachers expressed awe and gratitude at the selection of items, but perhaps no one enjoyed it more than the United in STEM interns themselves.  

“My favorite part of the experience was directly seeing the impact we had on the teachers and Tools4Schools representatives,” said Yutika Aggarwal, a United in STEM intern on the Operations team. “Hearing the feedback from teachers during shopping day, it was very inspiring knowing that our summer work had an impact. I was inspired to continue working with a company that supports my own beliefs and actively works towards applying its software to a good cause.” 

Shopping day and beyond

WakeEd Partnership was founded in 1983 and has served in a unique position in the education space as an independent nonprofit committed to improving public education and advocating for excellent educational opportunities for all students. 

While the organization has been active for nearly 40 years, Tools4Schools launched in January 2022 to serve the 11,000 teachers in North Carolina’s largest school district. 

That made it perfect timing for a data-driven project like this one that can examine the unique challenges the program faces and use insights from the data collected and analyzed to make an impact beyond just this supply drive. 

“I’m interested to continue the conversation and the work on the data part of the project because we’re trying to learn, too,” WakeEd Partnership President Keith Poston says. “We’re not a retail organization, but we are moving a lot of products. We want to do it in the most cost-effective, efficient way. If I’ve heard it once from a teacher, I’ve heard it 100 times – it’s like Christmas. We know it’s filling a need.” 


About Author

Evan Markfield

Social Innovation Editorial Director

Evan tells the stories of how SAS, its partners and customers activate their curiosity to spark innovation and social impact to make the world a better place using data and analytics.

1 Comment

  1. Chris Hemedinger
    Chris Hemedinger on

    Tools4Schools is a wonderful resource! My daughter just began her career as a music teacher in a local elementary school, and she picked up some really useful items on Shopping Day!

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