What if volunteers had a Craigslist to help public schools?

CommunityShare in Tucson, Ariz., is set up like a Craigslist or Match.com – except instead of furniture or romance, the common denominator is bringing more people, and their real-life experiences, into classrooms.

Published Sept. 19, 2016

Evan Grae Davis makes a living rallying support for humanitarian causes. A documentary filmmaker and activist, he often wondered how he could share his passion with the children in his community.

So when he caught wind of CommunityShare – an online platform that connects educators with professionals and others in his home in Tucson, Ariz. – Mr. Davis signed on right away.

He wasn’t disappointed. His first session, or “share,” involved coaching middle schoolers to give TED talks on issues they cared about. “I was floored by these kids, how prepared they were, how well-spoken they were,” he says. “It was such a blast.”

Davis has accepted every share request he’s received since.

Developed in 2014, CommunityShare has seen growing support among educators, parents, and community members in the Tucson Unified School District. The site is set up like Craigslist or Match.com – users create profiles, explaining in short blurbs what they’re looking for or hoping to contribute – except instead of furniture or romance, the common denominator is bringing real-life experience into classrooms. The platform is sponsored by CITY Center for Collaborative Learning, a Tucson-based nonprofit. Once connected, people come in for a share, which can last a single session or take place over weeks.

Other groups across the country have launched initiatives that seek to connect classrooms with communities. But supporters say CommunityShare has the potential to be part of a broader nationwide movement: one that reimagines US public schools as more than just places where students are fed information before their release into the world.

“People have developed really great platforms that curate educational resources,” writes Karen Cator, president and chief executive officer of Digital Promise, a Washington-based education innovations group, in an email. “There are volunteer matching programs. And there are great programs that implement innovative programming in and out of school. But this is something that brings all of this together, connecting schools and students with local partners and opportunities right where they are.

Read the rest on EqualEd, The Christian Science Monitor’s new section on solutions education inequity.