Four window screens at Lopez Elementary School in Los Baños, Philippines were the catalyst for two brothers deciding to form a nonprofit.
The screens were a response to a 2019 dengue fever epidemic in the country. The goal? To promote airflow without letting disease-carrying mosquitoes into the classroom.
Gage Sanchez, ’23, and his older brother Egan utilized their business skills and science knowledge, respectively, to make an impact. However, the window screens were just the beginning.
“After that 2019 project, Egan and I realized that there is much more we can do,” said Gage, a La Salle University Honors student studying finance.
The Sanchez brothers founded Save Our Schools (SOS) in May 2021. Today, the nonprofit is operated by a team of college students located across the U.S., guided by SOS’s mission to “improve infrastructure and encourage scientific learning in underfunded schools.” Currently, the organization is solely working with schools in the Philippines.
“We formed our two-pronged mission with intentionality. There are research-supported school infrastructure needs and science learning deficiencies in the Philippines that must be addressed,” Gage said.
Gage, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., noted that research has shown Filipino students consistently score in the bottom percentile on international tests. These learning outcomes have been strongly correlated with poor classroom learning environments. Plus, the Philippines has one of the lowest concentrations of researchers and scientists in the world.
“We try to make everything at SOS as mission, value, and data driven as possible. We want to address genuine, data-supported needs. If the data changes over time, then we are more than happy to adjust our approach. Ultimately, our goal is to concretely address Philippines students’ challenges through quantifiable solutions.”
– Gage Sanchez, ’23
Gage brings the business analytics outlook to SOS, while Egan comes from a healthcare background through his studies at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. The rest of their team fills in the blanks.
“We try to make everything at SOS as mission, value, and data driven as possible. We want to address genuine, data-supported needs. If the data changes over time, then we are more than happy to adjust our approach.” he said. “Ultimately, our goal is to concretely address Philippines students’ challenges through quantifiable solutions.”
Richard Mshomba, ‘85, Ph.D., taught Gage in an honors course in the fall of 2020. Even though the course was taught on Zoom, the faculty member began to know Gage the first day of class.
“He came fully prepared to every class–he answered questions and asked questions that raised our class discussion to a higher level. I am not at all surprised that he has started a project to help other students succeed in their education. In class, his questions brought attention to the challenges that people in developing countries face daily,” he said.
Mshomba said Gage was one of the students who helped to revive the Student Economics Association (SEA) which had been dormant for a few years.
“He is someone with a lot of energy and who sees a challenge as an opportunity to do something. He has a very friendly demeanor that allows him to work with people of all backgrounds,” Mshomba added.
SOS raised more than $2,000 during its first fiscal year. It utilized $1,000 to build a 10-faucet handwashing facility at Lopez Elementary, helping the school earn a Wash in School Star from the Department of Education and meet the government mandate that requires 10 faucets for every 100 in-person students.
Gage said the organization plans to work on one infrastructure project at a time and is looking for another elementary school for its next initiative.
This summer, the organization will partner with Rizal Elementary School in the Rizal municipality of the Philippines. SOS plans to donate $2,000 to fund railings for the second, third, and fourth floors of one of the school’s buildings.
“The students cannot use those floors because it is dangerous to let them roam around without guard rails blocking off the edges,” Gage said. “We will also fund skeletal models for the children to use in their science learning.”
The organization also plans to create instructional YouTube videos about hygiene to reach multiple student bodies simultaneously.
While Save Our Schools’ staff is comprised of college students working on a part-time volunteer basis, they aim to work effectively and efficiently.
The organization keeps in contact with partner school representatives in the Philippines and the Sanchez brothers have family members who reside in the country who check on project progress.
“We try our hardest to leverage our fresh perspective to quantifiably help students in the Philippines and around the world. We are energetic and determined to claw closer every day to our vision of a world where all students receive a quality education in healthy classrooms,” Gage said.
Following graduation from La Salle, Gage has a role lined up with Johnson & Johnson but plans to continue SOS on a part time basis. The goal is to make large impacts on a small scale.
“We will adjust our mission to address the real needs,” he added.