OPINION: Issaquah Schools Foundation supports all students

An opinion piece by Liz Swanson

  • Saturday, September 29, 2018 9:30am
  • Opinion

By Liz Swanson

For the Issaquah Reporter

In August, we dropped off our daughter at college. While getting her dorm room set up, we got acquainted with her roommate’s family. Her roommate’s mom said she’s a police officer in California and works at a correctional facility. She asked me what I do, and I answered that I head up a nonprofit that raises funds to support schools. The organization is called the Issaquah Schools Foundation.

She asked further, “what do you raise funds for?” I replied that we raise money for programs that the school district can’t fund with state or tax dollars — programs like afterschool homework help or food aid for students who need breakfast or lunch at school because of hardship at home. The foundation also provides grants to teachers for innovative classroom ideas, plus funding for enrichment programs like STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) clubs and robotics. In all, the foundation exists to keep kids connected to their education, their schools and community.

She said: “So what you do ensures that kids don’t end up where I work.”

I never thought about the foundation as a prevention program before, but when she said that, I realized she’s correct.

We know that students who are engaged in school and surrounded by teachers, mentors and classmates who care about them are more likely to exhibit leadership, value diversity and seek to resolve conflicts in a positive manner. In the Issaquah School District, this is where the foundation comes in. We respond to student needs by working with the district, schools, community organizations and PTSA groups to create programs that address the needs of kids, all with a shared goal of helping students reach the promise of their potential.

Donations from parents, family members, businesses and community members make foundation programs possible, impacting the lives of more than 21,000 students. In fact, during the 2017-18 school year, the foundation distributed more than $1.35 million to 69 unique programs — programs that would not be possible without Foundation support.

Here’s a snapshot of what we accomplished together for students:

After-school homework help: 19,800 students received one-to-one help from teachers at after-school homework labs.

Food aid: More than 17,000 free breakfasts, snacks and lunches were provided to kids to help them be ready to learn.

Robotics: $37,500 in funding gave 461 students at 10 schools an opportunity to join robotics clubs.

Academic enrichment: More than 1,600 ninth graders were inspired by three-day “Bringing Shakespeare Alive” residencies with Seattle Shakespeare Company.

Basic needs: Families that need financial support received nearly 1,000 free backpacks filled with school supplies to help kids go back to school with confidence.

As I continue to reflect on her perception of the foundation as a prevention organization, I’m reminded that the foundation is about what we as a community want for children: We want our kids to have the tools, opportunities and confidence they need to grow into productive, healthy, happy and thriving community members.

Donations allow the foundation to leverage the generosity of people to help kids who need extra help; incubate and replicate innovative ideas in classrooms; and create a love of learning that drives students on their personal path to success.

Please join with me in supporting the Issaquah Schools Foundation today.

Liz Swanson of Sammamish is the executive director of the Issaquah Schools Foundation.

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