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The Nashville Alliance for Public Education was started in 2002 and since then has raised nearly $20 million for the public school system of Metro Nashville.
Although some of the larger projects impact the entire school system, sometimes it’s the specific gifts to individual schools that hit home.
Recently Harris-Hillman Special Education School received a check from the Alliance that made the principal’s eyes pop.
“When I opened the envelope, I was amazed at how much it was,” said Robbie Hampton. “It was large enough to go a long way in helping us with our kids. Equipment is very expensive, and the district is not always able to provide the money.
“For our students, specialized equipment is a great need,” Hampton said. “The help we receive from the Alliance to meet our equipment needs is wonderful.”
Harris-Hillman serves 150 students from the age of 3-21 years old. The majority of the students are considered medically fragile with multiple disabilities in the severe to profound range.
For more than 23 years, the school has served as a Project Pencil partner with Vanderbilt as well as been a longtime neighbor. It is the longstanding relationship of volunteerism that has filled the gaps where funding stops.  
Hampton credits the Alliance for addressing unmet needs of schools and impacting the lives of 75,000 students attending Metro schools.
The Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to securing private resources to improve Metro Nashville public schools. It is also committed to building broader and deeper community participation in public education.
“When we are talking about children in our school system, we are talking about our future,” said Hampton. “The money going to the Alliance will impact the community for years and years to come. Basically the long-term well-being of the community as a whole is impacted by helping the schools.”
Susan Hickman, whose daughter Shelby attends Harris-Hillman, is grateful for the donations made to the Alliance to assist schools.
“If Harris-Hillman did not exist, she wouldn’t get the services that have helped her so much,” Hickman said. “I know that attending Harris-Hillman has helped her develop to her fullest capabilities. We work together as a team—home and school.”
Shelby began at Harris-Hillman when she was 3. She is now 11. Developmentally, she is probably between 9 and 12 months old, but has made much progress, her mother said.
But because of the challenges associated with caring for a medically fragile child, many of the parents at Harris-Hillman are not able to participate in parent groups that serve as a fundraising source.
“People really don’t understand how hard it is to fund a school like Harris-Hillman because of the expenses,” Hickman said. “And having fundraisers is not easy when most parents are having to tend to their children or cannot transport them back and forth to school to be involved in a PTA.
“Getting people back to school is really hard because some things are out of our control. It’s not that we don’t want to participate. But many of the children are not on set schedules, the parents don’t have the flexibility to come and go because of the health needs of our children.
“When people donate to our school, it is so appreciated,” she said. “All the schools benefit from the work of the Alliance. It really does take community support.”
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