Fundraising supplies STEM with air purifiers

Out of concern about COVID, University of Texas Permian Basin STEM Academy parent Ermila Watts undertook a fundraising effort to buy air purifiers for every classroom and space on campus.

“It was a difficult decision to make about sending the kids to school in person and I was just looking for different ways that we could help with a mitigation strategy. I thought air purifiers would help a lot,” Watts said as she delivered the appliances to campus Thursday.

Watts, whose three children attend STEM, asked parents about her idea for the fundraiser. The purifiers are Air Shield Air Purifiers from Advanced Pure Air.

“Here starting in third grade, they switch classes so they have three teachers so it would be difficult to buy air purifiers for every class that they’re in. And once I brought it up, a lot of parents were like, ‘Hey, I’d be interested for this grade level,’ or this teacher. … It just turned into a way bigger project extend what I had in mind.”

Watts set up the fundraising as a PayPal money pool and broke it up into classes so the parents knew they were donating to their child’s class. She also created a public Facebook group so that people could share it, and hopefully contribute that way.

There are 15 units currently and they still need 36. Efforts also are underway to obtain purifiers for the upper grades.

“I have links for all the grades,” and as many classrooms as she could think of, Watts said.

“… We have one for our art department; we have an engineering class and we have common area links as well,” she added.

Watts said she never thought the effort would grow this large.

She was able to talk to the manufacturer and get a five-year warranty and let them know that it was a parent effort.

One of the unique things about STEM Academy is that it’s like a family.

“When we see a need, we always try to step up and try to fill the need where it is,” Watts said.

She added that it’s exciting that they have accomplished this much so far.
“But like I say, you know, God put it in my spirit to start this project and to try to help keep our children safe.

Our STEM family just has really shown up and they’ve donated. I try to do updates and order every week, so a lot of times I’ll be like, okay Friday at noon I’m going to place an order. Let’s see if we can reach any goals,” Watts said.

And it works.

“I really appreciate the generosity of our parents and our community because the most important thing is to keep our kids safe,” she added.

Fourth grade science and social studies teacher Pauline Williamson agreed. Health is a priority right now and Williamson is grateful to Watts and everyone in the community that has chipped in.

“… The only way to get past this mess is to go through it and any way we can strengthen the school helps us see that,” Williamson said.

Patricia Zimmerman, a third grade science and social studies teacher, Jamie Disney, a third-grade reading teacher, Shayla Yelley, a third grade math teacher, Sarah Griffin, a first grade teacher, Haley Rogers, a second grade teacher, fifth grade math teacher Angelica Ramos and fifth grade science teacher Sam Kozlowski all appreciate the air purifiers.

Kozlowski said she thinks it’s going to be great to have the purifiers.

“I’ve been having to open my window a lot and that’s sucking all my cold A/C air out, so these air purifiers should help a lot and I’m really excited to get them up and running,” Kozlowski said.

Griffin said it lets the teachers know they are supported by the parents and that they really care about helping keep teachers safe “so we can do a good job teaching their kids.”

Rogers said the purifiers were a “wonderful surprise, because health and safety are so important in the classroom and we want students free of sickness and to breathe in clean air so this is a huge blessing for sure.”