Samuel Jackson helps Hamilton Co. schools as part of nationwide fundraising campaign

"I loved my education in the Chattanooga school system." Jackson says in a self-shot video asking people to donate to Hamilton County Schools. Image via DonorsChoose.org

Many Chattanooga residents are aware that actor Samuel L. Jackson was raised in Chattanooga, and went to school here.

Now, Jackson is giving to Chattanooga schools as part of a nationwide campaign to raise money for local schools. 50 actors, including Jackson, are taking part in the fundraiser designed to highlight online philanthropy's role in helping students succeed.

Here's a look at Jackson's video, which he shot himself:

"I'm doing this because I'm a proud graduate of Riverside High School in Chattanooga," Jackson says in the video. "When I was in 9th grade, Riverside came into being because Chattanooga High School built a new school across the river, and we got their old school. Not such a big deal, but it was a big deal to us because we didn't have to ride the bus all the way across town to Howard. And I was able to continue walking to school to help the same 8 or 9 people that I had been walking to school with since the 4th grade. We talked about our hopes. We talked about our dreams. We all graduated on time. Nobody dropped out. We supported each other and our teachers supported us. I loved my education in the Chattanooga school system."

This is all part of a nationwide campaign from the education philanthropy website DonorsChoose.org on Thursday in a "flash funding" effort involving actors, pro athletes, tech titans and others, each of whom will fund all of the projects in a specific city, region or entire state.

"My head might explode. It really might explode from joy. Or my heart," said "Community" actress Yvette Nicole Brown, who is covering DonorsChoose.org projects in her hometown of East Cleveland, Ohio, in the #BestSchoolDay initiative.

In all, 58 celebrity philanthropists including Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Serena Williams have pledged $14.2 million to fund nearly 12,000 projects in 47 states plus Washington, D.C., that were listed on the DonorsChoose.org website as of 8 a.m. Thursday.

It is the latest effort underscoring the use of online philanthropy to bridge the gap between what school budgets provide and what teachers say they need. Educators, many of whom report spending an average of $500 from their own pockets to equip students, have secured millions of dollars for books and supplies by floating requests in cyberspace instead of before the school board.

Also this week, the crowdfunding site GoFundMe.com announced a new concentration on education fundraising, beginning with a contest that will award a needy public school with 100 computers. Like DonorsChoose.org, the site lets a teacher or school post a funding request for a specific item and then watch as donors contribute a few dollars at a time.

In the last year, GoFundMe.com took in $60 million for education campaigns from 777,000 donations, the company said.

Association of Fundraising Professionals spokesman Michael Nilsen said online philanthropy will not replace spaghetti dinners or bake sales anytime soon because of the power in the personal connections those things offer, "but it will certainly be another tool for organizations and people to use in the future."

Before Thursday, DonorsChoose.org says more than $400 million has been raised on its site to fund nearly 700,000 education projects posted by about 280,000 teachers.

The celebrity givers in Thursday's campaign hope to inspire others to pitch in and get all the pending projects funded. Google co-founder Sergey Brin and WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton will match $3.2 million in citizen donations.

The benefactors include other actors (Ashton Kutcher, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick), athletes (Carmelo Anthony, Torrey Smith, Larry Fitzgerald, Dwight Howard), and business and foundation leaders (Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen; Bill and Melinda Gates; the chief executives of Zappos, LinkedIn and Yelp; Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg).

The idea was inspired by Stephen Colbert, "The Late Show" host and a DonorsChoose.org board member who surprised teachers in his home state of South Carolina by funding all the classroom projects in one day in May.

That led Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and his wife, Livia, to approach the website about doing the same for public schools in Boston and Contra Costa County, California, and to enlist fellow Twitter co-founders Ev Williams and Jack Dorsey to commit to fund wish lists in Nevada, San Francisco and Missouri.

That gave DonorsChoose.org Chief Executive Charles Best an idea.

"At that point, I said, all right, let's keep this secret and let's see if some more people would want to join you and then we'll unleash all of these flash fundings in one unforgettable moment," Best said. "And it grew from there."

For Jackson, it's another recent example of him touting his hometown. Jackson spoke at the Chattanooga United concert on the Riverfront last year, which honored the 5 service members who were killed in the July 16th shootings:


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