Companies for Causes

Eastern Senior High School Students Meet New Corporate Community Supporters

“We have the resources to help these kids succeed,” said Tom Raffa. “We just need to get better at working and owning these issues together.”

Companies for Causes Delivers on First Promise of Support for Literacy Program, Committed to Boosting Graduation Rates

Washington, DC – Students at Washington’s newly-renovated Eastern Senior High School received an early Christmas gift last week with the delivery of almost 1,000 new books for their individual classroom libraries. Before year end, they will receive a second installment of books as  well as custom bookshelves for their classrooms. The gift from Companies for Causes was the first step in an effort led by some of the community’s CEOs to help boost students’ literacy skills and turn around Washington’s lagging high school graduation rates.

Eastern’s students will begin using the books this week as part of the new the Drop Everything and Read Program (DEAR) program whose goal is to help all students improve their literacy skills and advance by two reading levels by end of the school year.

“Finally seeing these books delivered to the students was heartening, but meeting with the students, hearing their enthusiasm and seeing their dedication to learning gives me great hope that we will make a difference this year,” said Tom Raffa, CEO of RAFFA, P.C. and the driving force behind Companies for Causes.

The CEOs behind Companies for Causes decided to tackle high school graduation rates in D.C. as their first philanthropic effort together. To help lead the efforts, they convened a meeting of civic leaders, nonprofits, parents, school representatives and media last June to get recommendations on schools in need.

D.C. Councilmember Tom Wells was among those leaders. He suggested Companies for Causes contact Principal Skerritt and her students at Eastern Senior High School because they had a beautiful new media center but no books, librarian or classroom libraries.

Eastern Principal Rachel Skerritt has become a key partner for Companies for Causes. With her direction, a “wish list” of books was shared among the participating CEOs.  A nonprofit partner serving the D.C. community, Turning the Page, collaborated with Companies for Causes in getting preferred pricing from the publishers for the books, and an online “gift registry” was established to enable additional donations to the school. OPX, a founding Companies for Causes member, secured the custom bookshelf donation from Steelcase.

Last Monday, CEOs from RAFFA, P.C., Geppetto Catering and TerpSys delivered the books and met with a group of students to discuss the next steps in their partnership. Photos are available online:

“I look forward to our continuing partnership with Companies for Causes. Their passion for education is reflected in their efforts so far, and we welcome the community support,” said Rachel Skerritt, principal of Eastern Senior High School. “After our meeting, I reminded the students that as long as they work hard and reach the goals we have all set together, the dreams they shared with the CEOs can all be reached.”

“We knew we needed to work with a strong school leader who had a vision for her students and a plan to get there, and we are confident that Principal Skerritt knows what is best for her students, so we are taking her lead,” said Raffa. “We will facilitate the resources, negotiate partnerships with nonprofit supporters, mentor and tutor students and parents, cater meals, and fund and coordinate enrichment field trips and summer camps.”

“We will support Eastern for the long haul, in measured doses as long as measureable progress is being made and students are all moving toward graduation,” said Josh Carin, owner of Geppetto Catering.

“The students gave us their next ‘wish list’ which included field trips, college visits and more, but what was interesting to me was that the students understood there were standards for earning these rewards, not just that the rewards were going to be gifted to them,” said Ed Woods, CEO of TerpSys. “We told them we will be hands-on in supporting them through their graduation from Eastern and that ‘wish list’ items would be discussed between the CEOs and Principal Skerritt.”

“We have the resources to help these kids succeed,” added Raffa. “We just need to get better at working and owning these issues together.”

About Companies for Causes

Companies for Causes brings together like-minded,  closely-held business CEOs whose passion for philanthropy brings positive and measureable change to local communities. Determined to shift their corporate social responsibility efforts from good intentions to strategic impact, Companies for Causes members decide collectively which pressing issues to tackle and work collaboratively to effect long-term change, leveraging their efforts to yield the greatest benefit for the communities served.  Learn more at