Donor Spotlight Making masks for inclusive education

Making face masks to support inclusive classrooms

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced challenges into everyday life and inclusive classrooms. It also opened up the possibility of people helping others in their communities and across the country. For supporter Karen, this looked like sewing face masks. When we realized the pandemic was going to last months, many of us had family members and friends who started sewing masks. It was a way of connecting and giving to one another while we stayed home and stayed safe. Karen took this opportunity even further by giving back some of the proceeds from her mask sales. She chose to support the Inclusive Classroom Fund.

What is the Inclusive Classroom Fund?

The Inclusive Classroom Fund specifically targets students with needs often overlooked in a traditional classroom. In particular, we fund educators who work with students with disabilities and English language learners who often need supplementary materials to succeed.

Why one donor supported inclusive classrooms

We spoke with Karen about her face mask line, The Friendship Mask, and why she chose to support educators. (AAC): You mentioned you’re donating a portion of proceeds from your face mask sales. How did you start selling face masks, and what inspired you to donate to a non-profit?

Karen Coles (KC): A few years ago, I learned to sew. I love making gifts for people. Once the pandemic hit, I started making face masks for myself and friends. Being quarantined at home, I mailed out a few face masks to a friend. This sparked an idea to create a line of face masks called The Friendship Mask! I thought this might be a fun way to encourage young people to wear a mask and to stay connected during a time when school was all virtual and a sense of social connection might have felt lost. Just like a friendship bracelet, the friendship mask serves as a symbol of long-lasting friendship. They come in various color combinations and each color represents a character trait of the one wearing it.

I was inspired to donate a portion of proceeds to a non-profit because this act of giving in a time of great need seemed to coincide with the purpose I had in mind for these face masks.

AAC: How did you discover and decide to give to the Inclusive Classroom Fund to support educators?

KC: I briefly heard about on the news at the time when I had just started researching some non-profits, so I decided to check out your website to learn more. 

The Inclusive Classroom Fund sparked my interest because it prompted me to think about my own education growing up and what kind of biases and assumptions have been passed down to me? Such questions come to mind like, “How would future adults treat each other if inclusivity was implemented more in our classrooms today? 

AAC: What about supporting education and inclusive classrooms is meaningful to you? What’s your take on how we currently treat teachers and students as a country?

KC: Supporting education is meaningful to me because I often think about all of the great teachers in my life, from elementary school all the way to the present. The words and actions of a teacher can really inform what we do for the rest of our life!

I think teachers are the biggest un-sung heroes! As I learn more about efforts to promote inclusivity in the classroom, I feel hopeful that each unique set of strengths of future students will be cultivated more.

AAC: Did you know, on average, teachers spend $745 a year of their own money on supplies for their students? What is your reaction to that?

KC: I never knew what the average number was, but that sounds like a lot! I wish this would be $0. In other fields of work I know of, employees would normally be compensated for expenses, so why not teachers?

AAC: If you could say something to other people out there to motivate them to donate their own time or money to support education, what would it be?

KC: I believe that donating your time or money to support education, such as this Inclusive Classroom Fund can have such a great impact for the future peacefulness and wellbeing of our entire world! It can lead to more informed, compassionate and safer environments.

How to support Inclusive Classrooms

Your gift to the Inclusive Classroom Fund supports the diverse needs of all students. With your help, we can reach a day where every child has the tools they deserve to succeed in school.

Read the story of another incredible education champion who painted for students.

If you’re interested in supporting and want to know how to get involved, reach out to us [email protected]. We can’t wait to hear from you!