Earlier in my career, before becoming a Fool, I taught at a small public college in the Bronx, New York. At the beginning of each semester, I would ask my students to write a brief essay about themselves and their background. One of my students, a young woman of Puerto Rican descent, wrote, "I worry about my people. I'm afraid we have no hope." Despite struggling with English, that student went on to achieve a high "A" in the course. No hope, indeed!

I have fond recollections of those years in the Bronx. Most of my students were the first individuals in their extended families to ever go to college, and they took that responsibility very seriously. The vast majority were in their desks every day, on time, and ready to learn. Some of them even brought their young children to class, which, to me, showed an even greater commitment.

Whenever I think about those students, I'm optimistic about our country's future. Sure, our public schools have their problems. But throughout this country's history, our public school system has provided a high-level education to all comers, while at the same time transforming the huddled masses of the Old World into Americans. All things considered, I think our schools have done an amazing job.

That said, we can do better. And that's where you come in. As part of this year's Foolanthropy campaign, we have selected DonorsChoose as one of our featured charities. DonorsChoose is a way for individuals to provide low-income students with resources that our public schools often lack. The charity grew out of a public high school in the Bronx and has so far raised $4,813,853 for 281,718 students from donors in all 50 states.

One of the great things about this charity is that you can see exactly how your money is being spent. Among the projects that are now seeking funding are:

  • A southside Chicago primary school is creating a new word study center as part of its overall literacy program.
  • A Bronx Earth science teacher needs a new overhead projector to better serve his students.
  • A North Carolina math teacher is hoping for science materials in order to broaden the school's curriculum.

As you can see, this is all practical but necessary stuff. By contributing, donors get to make a tangible and immediate difference in the lives of young people in need. I found a brief tour of the charity's site quite inspiring. My only concern is deciding which project I want to fund.

DonorsChoose is just one of five charities that we've selected for this year's Foolanthropy campaign. The other four are:

All five are focused, well-run charities that get the maximum benefit out of every contribution. Our selection committee spent many hours performing due diligence on each one. And now, all that is left for you to do is to choose which of the five best reflects your concerns and aspirations.

DonorsChoose is the one that speaks to me the most, and I'm making my contribution today. As St. Francis of Assisi was thought to have said, "Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words."

To donate to DonorsChoose through Foolanthropy, click here.

John Reeves is coordinating financial editor. He is also a member of the Foolanthropy 2005 committee.