Photo: Maria Inés Taracena
Fourth-graders exploring Camp Cooper.
successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign last week, raising $20,001 to support staff and operations for the 2015-2016 school year.
The more than 50-year-old environmental learning center has been facing a crippling budget, which sparked embarking on some grassroots fundraising to maintain its programs—something Cooper hadn't had to rely on in the past.
Tucson Unified School District owns the land where the center stands, and that support isn't going anywhere any time soon. But the University of Arizona's College of Education streams Cooper money for its operations budget—the hiring and maintenance of staff—and that revenue depends on how many people enroll in the college.
"There is lower enrollment in the College of Education, probably tied to the overall climate of education both nationally and in our state. There are fewer students coming into our program and that leads to having less funding for a place like Cooper," Cooper Center Director Colin Waite told the Tucson Weekly in May (read more on Cooper in my article "Natural Selection
"). When a student enrolls in the UA's elementary education program, for instance, the fees that come from that are some of Cooper's life support system. With this fundraising campaign, which was launched around April, the goal was to star heading in a route where Cooper would become self-sufficient, so they no longer rely on entities like the UA, which constantly have to absorb budget cuts from the state.
The crowdfunding that wrapped up last week attracted more than 100 donors from around the U.S.
In three months, Cooper has raised $80,000 toward its goal of between $100,000 and $120,000 for its operations budget, including a $40,000 grant from the Marshall Foundation, a $10,000 gift from Southwestern Foundation, more than $30,000 in small contributions from other supporters, and recently the $20,000. Also, TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez contributed $7,700 from his performance bonus, according to a Camp Cooper media release.
“Our Southern Arizona community has spoken, and they value the work that we’re doing at Cooper," Waite says in a statement. "We’ve always known that the support was here, but we’ve never had to ask for financial help at such a high level. Our future is bright, knowing that there are so many Friends of Camp Cooper out there.”
If you are interested in donating to Camp Cooper, visit its crowdfunding site