Lady Gaga hoping to heal wounds with acts of kindness

Lady Gaga hoping to heal wounds with acts of kindness
Lady Gaga arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "A Star Is Born," at the Shrine Auditorium. Picture: by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

By Barbara Goldberg

The singer will pay for school materials for 160 classrooms in El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy, where mass shootings have killed 35 people in recent weeks, writes Barbara Goldberg.

In El Paso, Texas, there are free books for third-grade students. Disabled students in Dayton, Ohio, will get bouncy chairs to calm them. Science kits will go to fifth-graders in Gilroy, California.

Those are just three of a series of classroom initiatives that Grammy-winning singer Lady Gaga has pledged to fund in the latest US cities to endure mass shootings, as students go back to school this week.

Her aim is to bring hope to a country numbed by news about gun violence.

“I want to channel my confusion, frustration, and fury into hope,” Gaga said on Facebook, where she announced the donation from her Born This Way Foundation, in partnership with nonprofit DonorsChoose.

Gaga pledged to “fully fund” 162 school projects, including requests made by teachers from 125 classrooms in El Paso, 14 classrooms in Dayton, and 23 classrooms in Gilroy. The value of the donation was not disclosed.

Cynthia Chavez, right, embraces her daughter Mia Chavez as they visit a makeshift memorial at the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. Picture: AP Photo/John Locher
Cynthia Chavez, right, embraces her daughter Mia Chavez as they visit a makeshift memorial at the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. Picture: AP Photo/John Locher

Back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, a week ago, left 31 people dead. Three more were killed when a gunman opened fire at a food festival in Gilroy the previous weekend.

The dead included a six-year-old boy, Stephen Romero, who was playing near a bounce house at the Gilroy Garlic Festival; a 13-year-old girl, Keyla Salazar, and, in El Paso, Javier Amir Rodriguez, 15.

Beyond the 35 people who died and the 65 who were wounded, the shootings likely had a psychological impact on many young people in those three cities.

Gaga urged her Facebook followers to seek counselling. She said classroom donations would give teachers “the support they need to inspire their students to work together and bring their dreams to life.”

DonorsChoose, a charity started in 2000 by a Bronx public school teacher, who wanted his students to read Little House on the Prairie but could afford only a single copy, said tragedies like the recent mass shootings could ultimately reveal some of humanity’s redeeming traits.

“To know that strangers from across the country — let alone someone like Lady Gaga and Born This Way Foundation — want to express a random act of kindness to you and your community is a reminder that there are many more people who want to do good in the world,” said Christopher Pearsall, vice-president of DonorsChoose.

Mourners gather at the scene of a mass shooting during a vigil, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. Multiple people in Ohio were killed in the second mass shooting in the U.S. in less than 24 hours. Picture: AP Photo/John Minchillo
Mourners gather at the scene of a mass shooting during a vigil, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. Multiple people in Ohio were killed in the second mass shooting in the U.S. in less than 24 hours. Picture: AP Photo/John Minchillo

Many of the projects were already receiving partial funding from other foundations and Gaga paid the rest of the tab, according to the DonorsChoose website. Among those that Gaga chose to fund is a $462 project at Whitaker Elementary School, in El Paso.

“I am a third-grade teacher in an impoverished elementary school,” Rebeca Blanco-Grijalva said in her appeal for her classroom library, on behalf of students who have no books at home.

“My students are inquisitive, voracious readers, who are craving to discover the newest adventure in their favourite book series.”

Students with cognitive and physical disabilities may benefit from an $862 project to outfit a classroom, at North Dayton School of Discovery, with an “active chair”, a “wobble chair”, “bouncy bands for chairs”, a weighted fleece blanket, and other equipment for pupils who have difficulty sitting still.

“My students have rough edges and beautiful hearts,” their teacher said. “My students live hard lives and come to school looking for love as much as they do an education.”

Gaga is also helping to send Museum of Science kits for solving a mock pandemic outbreak of a newly discovered virus.

The $752 project “will allow them to practice collaboration, solutions-based thinking, empathy, and have fun”, teacher Nicole Pearson said in her appeal.

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