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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

West Side 3rd Graders Headed On Epic Field Trip After Donors Step Up To Give Thousands Of Dollars

"Every child deserves a fond memory of the time they were in school, it will shine like gold in their memories for all their lives," one donor wrote. "Enjoy the day!"

Students at Jensen Miller Scholastic Academy in Lawndale will celebrate the end of school with a field trip downtown thanks to some generous donors.
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LAWNDALE — West Side third grade teacher Samantha Marcum wanted her class to go on a special field trip to celebrate the end of the school year in June.

But she feared it wouldn’t happen because of the costs — until a crowdfunding campaign raised the money needed in just a few days.

Marcum, who has taught for 10 years at Jensen Miller Scholastic Academy in Lawndale, planned for two third grade classes and two fifth grade classes to take a trolley bus Downtown and go on an architectural tour before having lunch at the Rainforest Cafe.

But because CPS students are responsible for the costs of non-mandatory field trips, she also knew it would be asking a lot of her students’ families. She calculated the costs at $40 per child for transportation, tour and lunch and originally planned to ask families to pay in increments.

“We thought, we’ll tell them real early in the year and let them do a payment thing, maybe $10 a month,” Marcum said.

“We’ve been planning this from the beginning of the year,” Marcum said. “We’ve been trying to collect money for a couple months and haven’t had anyone pay yet.”

That fact added to her stress, along with the stress that comes with the job for every teacher, according to Marcum’s husband Christopher. So he started a GoFundMe campaign to defer some of the costs, never imagining it would take off like it did.

“I hated seeing her so stressed out, and I just thought maybe, I know a lot of theater people who try to get their shows off the ground with GoFundMe pages,” Christopher Marcum said. “I thought, I know some people, maybe I can put up a campaign and help out. All of a sudden, people just started sharing it. I was really overwhelmed.”

Christopher Marcum, who works at a Downtown accounting firm, launched the campaign last Wednesday with the initial goal of raising $3,600 to cover the 90 students who would go on the trip.

After hitting that goal in a day, he increased it to $4,500 to ensure they could pay activities so the kids could fully enjoy their day.

“Every child deserves a fond memory of the time they were in school, it will shine like gold in their memories for all their lives,” one donor wrote. “Enjoy the day!”

“All kids deserve field trips,” wrote another.

Samantha Marcum, who said she’s not a social media person and doesn’t even have a Facebook account, described her reaction to the response as “shock and awe.”

“I can’t believe it. It was done in two days. I just can’t believe it. Is gobsmacked a good word to use? I’m gobsmacked,” she said.

The campaign received a lot of $40 donations (the cost per child) and also a mix of small and large donations, including several from high school students Samantha Marcum’s sister teaches in Murphysboro, Ill.

“We had a couple $300 and $400 donations. Some of my sister’s students would put in $5 or $3. Kids who don’t have money and that was really sweet,” she said.

Christopher Marcum said the campaign was shared a lot by his network, which included several former classmates of his at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora.

“That was one of the biggest drivers. A lot of the kids I knew there are really into education and really successful themselves and now have kids that are school-age,” he said. “I think it really resonated with them and they started sharing it.”

As a reward, according to the description on the GoFundMe page, donors will receive a thank you card decorated by a student that will be sent after the June 10 trip so that the students can include something about it in the card.

Jensen Principal Chinyere Okafor-Conley said the campaign is inspiring, and she’s excited for the students.

Chinyere Okafor-Conley

“They did it on their own. It’s pretty exciting. They’ve been keeping me abreast of everything and I think it’s pretty cool,” she said. “…They wanted the scholars to have an experience that most third-grade scholars in Chicago wouldn’t have.”

The students and their families will learn that the costs of the field trip have been fully paid for on April 10, when report cards for the quarter are picked up and parent/teacher conferences take place, Samantha Marcum said.

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