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By Jamie Burke
In March, as schools shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Julia Gallogly, an English Language Learner teacher at Beachmont Veterans Memorial School in Revere, knew that families in her district might need extra support to get through a difficult time.
“There’s a lot of essential workers in these communities, people who are working hard and doing their best and we sort of owe it [to them]” she says. “If you’re a person that can stay home and still have a job, it’s that sense of trying to give back in that way.”
Fellow teachers had already pitched in to help deliver groceries and other needed supplies to families locally, and Gallogly had seen the success that teachers in nearby Chelsea had raising funds through online donations. So, she had an idea: Could her school’s community do that, too?
She reached out to her teacher’s union representative for advice. Gallogly shared her idea with the union president, too, and they quickly greenlit the project, recommending she partner with a local non-profit, The Neighborhood Development, to share the funds. From there, Gallogly says, it all came together.
“I set up a GoFundMe, and it really did sort of fund itself,” she says. With donations from teachers, staff, and people across the community, the online fundraiser quickly generated over $20,000—money that went to rent relief and other assistance for 20 families in the area.
“We wanted to make sure people could apply [for funding] regardless of immigration status, and that it would really help people who might not qualify for other benefits,” she says. Many of Gallogy’s students are immigrants or are the children of parents who immigrated and settled in Revere. So, she’s keenly aware of the unique challenges many immigrants to the U.S. face, especially during this time.
“Asking for help—that’s a verbal thing for some people to be able to do, and that’s legitimately not always safe,” says Gallogly. “Ways we can minimize those barriers are always good.” Working together with their non-profit partner, guidance counselors in Revere schools helped identify families who could benefit and assisted with the application process.
Gallogly is glad to have been able to give back to her school’s community. But, she stresses, she couldn’t have done it without the people doing this kind of work already. “The thing I felt good about with the fundraiser was the energy of having an idea and just being like, ‘Oh, we could do that,’” she says. The key to making it a reality was connecting with local organizers—something she recommends to anyone wanting to lend a hand to neighbors in need. “In every community, there are people who’ve been doing this sort of on-the-ground stuff forever,” she says. “If you can lend a voice, or resources, or a network of people, reach out. That’s really valuable.”
Now, though the pandemic has brought on a “new normal” for everyone, Gallogly hopes people keep sharing their support for teachers. “For most teachers that I know, everyone keeps saying that this is like your first year, no matter how long you’ve been doing it,” she says. She, her colleagues, and many other teachers just like her have been working hard to make this school year the best it can be for their students—everyone, she says, deserves some recognition for that.