Lake Washington Schools Foundation has awarded over $300,000 in grants to teachers and schools across the Lake Washington School District for the 2013-14 school year. The foundation is funding two programs for the first time, while it continues to support the rollout of the new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) -based Signature Programs and to fund long-standing programs such as Reaching for Success classroom innovation grants, the LINKS mentoring program and the Access Fund for low-income middle and high school students. Grants awarded to the school district from the foundation included a $49,000 Aspire grant from the AT&T Foundation to support high school completion and college-readiness for low-income students.
For the first time, the foundation is partnering with the Lake Washington School District to support 80 second-year teachers in 36 schools through the district’s highly effective and award-winning New Teacher Support Program (NTSP). Foundation funding of $18,000 per year for three years replaces a state grant which is no longer available. Research from the New Teacher Center shows that teachers in their second year make their biggest growth in instructional practice when provided with strategic and focused learning.
Peter Kirk Elementary teacher Christa Fagan said, “The NTSP helped me become a better teacher because I had constant support from my mentor, and release days to observe experienced teachers. My mentor was always there to help with lesson planning, to give me ideas and just be a listening ear when I needed to talk. Being able to see other teachers at work has been extremely beneficial to my teaching practices because for me, one of the best ways to learn is by watching how other teachers teach.”
Lake Washington Schools Foundation raises funds from community members, local government and businesses, civic groups and private foundations in order to support academic excellence and success for all students across the Lake Washington School District.
The foundation is most visible through its Reaching for Success grants, which fund programs and equipment valuable to students and teachers such as online math practice, student leadership opportunities, and musical instruments. This year, schools are receiving the largest investment in Reaching for Success grants in the foundation’s history, with over $84,000 awarded to five high schools, eight middle schools and 21 elementary schools. Each year, teachers submit more applications for innovative grant projects than the last. Increased donor support would allow more of these projects to become a reality.
At $22,000, the Access Fund is also being funded at the highest level in foundation history, and at $7,000 over last year, due to additional funding from the AT&T Foundation’s Aspire grant. The Access Fund empowers low-income middle and high school students to fully engage in school by helping them pay for school-related supplies, fees and extracurricular activities.
Redmond High School counselor Ellen Zambrowsky-Huls administers her school’s Access Fund, nicknamed RHS Help. According to Zambrowsky-Huls, “We want everyone to experience the stuff that makes high school, high school. Granting a $15 or $20 request to cover half an ASB card fee or a class fee can mean the difference between taking or not taking a class for some of our kids.”
“RHS Help, and the other initiatives we have begun that form the array of services to students in need, is vitally important to our school,” Redmond High School Principal Jane Todd adds. “Not only because it creates equity of access, but also because it teaches our students that it is not a sin to be poor and that we are a community which cares about all its members.”
The school district’s new Signature Programs were the focus of Lake Washington Schools Foundation’s 2013 Legacy for Learning spring fundraiser and the foundation has given nearly $300,000 to support these programs over the last two school years. This total includes a $70,000 grant for this school year, in addition to a $225,000 grant received from Waste Management in 2012.
STEM-based Signature Programs are innovative, three-period block classes available to high school students in a number of subjects. They combine rigorous academics with real-world applications of learning on projects centered on issues like global health and sustainability. Students have the opportunity to learn about careers directly by working with business partners such as AT&T, Evergreen
Health and Swedish Hospital.
The LINKS mentoring and tutoring program, which is run by the school district and primarily funded by the foundation, is being funded at $72,200. LINKS volunteers spend one hour per week in classrooms as mentors, tutors and classroom helpers. Last year, 892 students across the school district were paired with 294 LINKS volunteers, an 8% increase in students helped over the previous year. Currently, LINKS has over 50 students in all grade levels ready to be matched with a volunteer mentor.
Community members interested in supporting student growth and success can take part in the foundation’s Back to School campaign, which is more than halfway to its goal of raising $22,000 by December 31, or give to Lake Washington Schools Foundation through their United Way or workplace giving campaign. Visit www.lwsf.org/donate to give.
For more information about specific grants and other programs funded by the foundation, visit www.lwsf.org/programs.