Facing education cuts, donors raise record amount for local schools foundation

Thursday's event demonstrated that, in these tough economic times, many people are understanding they have a greater obligation to help sustain the core elements of our community.

“The impact the Issaquah Schools Foundation has had on my life goes beyond words. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

In 2006, Elyse Edwards was like many of her high school freshman peers – floating through her formal education with little idea of what she wanted to do. There were times when she was disillusioned with what she was learning at school, when she couldn’t see how things like geometry and calculus could possibly matter in the real world – how they could possibly matter to her.

Four years later and the Issaquah High School honor roll graduate is studying Mechanical Engineering at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore – a driven young woman, passionate about engineering, mathematics and science, on the verge of a successful career doing things she loves.

The turning point? Her school’s robotics program, in which a student team competes against other schools in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, (FIRST) Robotics competition.

It is a program that would not have been possible without the funding support of the Issaquah Schools Foundation (ISF). And so it was that, at the ISF 12th Annual Nourish Every Mind Luncheon on Thursday, Edwards gave testimony to the very real impact the foundation is having on students in local schools.

“You are changing lives,” Edwards said. Without the robotics club at her high school, Edwards doubts she would have tapped into her great passion for engineering and technology. “I owe this sense of purpose to ISF.”

The audience of 790 people was clearly moved by her eloquent and compelling testimony, responding with record donations of $406,000. This money will go toward funding programs in the Issaquah School District, helping teachers bring bright ideas to reality, and support the development of effective curriculums and teaching resources.

Thursday’s event demonstrated that, in these tough economic times, many people are understanding they have a greater obligation to help sustain the core elements of our community.

“Though the number of people we had at the luncheon was slightly lower than previous years, the fact that we were able to raise a record amount was just so overwhelming,” said ISF Development Manager Lynn Juniel.

Adding some serious cute to an already persuasive message, a group of Maple Hills Elementary School 2nd graders took to the luncheon stage to thank all those donors who had made the book bag program at their school possible.

The group of students stood in a long line and help a book above their head, each with a letter. The message it spelled out “thank you ISF donors,” helped translate the cold dollar amounts into a more emotive impact of a young child’s gratitude, and eagerness to learn.

“I wish that every second grader could get book bags,” said young Brett. Teacher Betsy Sanford told the audience how, with the help of an ISF Big Ideas grant, 2nd graders at her school were reading more, and enjoying reading more, at an important stage in their development.

Behind the warm and fluffy moments on Thursday, of course, is an ugly problem.

Washington commits less resources to its schools than almost any other state in the nation – and funding continues to fall. Recent state budget cuts have raised real concerns among our educators that they will soon be unable to meet the basic educations needs of many students.

It is the mission of the ISF to bridge this gap, and to provide the money schools need to prepare students for success.

As well as being an opportunity to muster additional support for ISF and the work it does, the luncheon was also about thanking those groups who continue to support the foundation. Regional companies, including Microsoft, Swedish Medical, Overlake Hospital and Port Blakely, are some of its major donors, joined by local businesses including Fischer Meats, Evergreen Ford, Fitness Together Issaquah, and the Front Street Salon.

Since ISF was formed in 1987, these businesses, and hundreds of individuals, have enabled it to provide more than $3 million dollars toward local schools programs.

For more information about ISF and the work it does, visit www.issaquahschoolsfoundation.org.