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Local crowdfunding campaign raising money for at-risk students

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A Minneapolis-based nonprofit started by a group of people in their 20s is kicking off a 30-day crowdfunding challenge to raise money to help at-risk students in the Twin Cities.

"Given the opportunity, any of these students can make anything of themselves – they're capable of so much," Josh Thelemann (pictured above on right), founder of Save Our Schools, told KARE 11.

This crowdfunding challenge is part of the Minneapolis nonprofit, Save Our Schools (SOS), which is an organization that works to provide programing to at-risk students from kindergarten to 12th grade in the Twin Cities.

The organization hopes to raise $25,000 by Sept. 6.

Thelemann came up with SOS about two years ago while he was studying elementary education at Augsburg College. He wanted to create "an organization that would empower and provide teachers the programming and resources they needed to reach students like myself and those I grew up with," according to an SOS blog post.

Thelemann said he suffers from "survivor's guilt" – "the pain of guilt and seeing others fall behind is too much for some to bear. ... Seeing old classmates, friends and teammates being gobbled up by poverty and its vicious cycle ate away at me," he wrote in the blog.

Thelemann told KARE 11 the opportunities SOS provides would otherwise be unavailable to these students due to cost, transportation and other challenges facing a student and his or her family.

Last year, SOS delivered $30,000 in programming to over 450 Minneapolis Public School children, according to a post on SOS' Facebook page.

This year, SOS is hoping to double the amount it raises and expand its programing to St. Paul Public Schools. In the 30-day challenge, which kicked off Aug. 7, SOS hopes to raise at least $25,000, SOS' website says. As of Sunday morning, SOS had raised 18 percent of its 30-day challenge goal.

Minneapolis City Council member Kevin Reich told KARE 11 many schools are test oriented, noting sometimes students miss out on the fun activities (programs like recess and gym, which have been cut back) that are importation for their education and their health. Reich noted SOS has provided those activities and opportunities for kids in need.

In a YouTube video (below), Thelemann says from the beginning of the day, SOS helps at-risk students by providing breakfast, resources, the latest technology and after school programs so students have safe places to go.

The hope is that the programs will keep students off the street and in school, leading to higher graduation rates and less crime, KARE 11 says.

Successful programs

Among the programs SOS has funded: Pillsbury Pedal Power, an idea that came from a 4th grade student and his peers at Pillsbury School in North Minneapolis.

The program encouraged kids to ride their bikes after school as part of an after-school program. Not only did it keep the students safe after school, but it also gave students and their chaperones the opportunity to bike across the city to learn about history, art and science.

Because of Pillsbury Pedal Power's success, it was given the local hero award from the City of Minneapolis.

SOS also sponsored the Minneapolis Math League, which provided weekly practices, transportation, food and competitions, while promoting science and math.

How does it work?

Students and staff go to SOS with a proposal for a program they've worked on together. The proposal is then reviewed by SOS before they turn the projects over to the public – who is given the opportunity to donate to the program they see fit.

Thelemann says 100 percent of the donations go to towards students in need.

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