2006-01-26 / Front Page

Foundation enhances options for students

By Donna K. Drago

If your Jamestown child is excited about learning new things and having fun while doing so, chances are they are the beneficiaries of the Jamestown Education Foundation.

Formed about two years ago, the foundation raises funds to provide enrichment and alternative educational opportunities to all children and teens on the island.

Betsy Gooding, a former School Committee member and a founder of the JEF, said that a big part of the foundation’s mission is to be a conduit between children and the “rich resources” of the artisans, athletes, scientists and other members of the community who may have skills and knowledge to share.

Many of the JEF’s programs are taught in the schools after hours. Others are taught at the library, and still others are taught on farms, sailboats, or on the island’s beaches.

The programs are to benefit all children of Jamestown, Gooding said, noting that kids who attend private or parochial schools are also welcome to participate in JEF activities.

The creation of Jamestown’s Teen Center was a significant effort on the part of JEF and several other community groups on the island, Gooding said.

“We were a very important catalyst” in getting that project off the ground, Gooding noted. “There’s still so much untapped potential” yet to be discovered in the center, she added.

Gooding said that the JEF gave $2,000 for the first year of the Teen Center, and the foundation will continue to help with funding and programming.

In the first two years of the organization, the foundation has held fund-raisers that have reaped about $35,000 for educational offerings, Gooding said. Its annual operating budget is $15,000, she noted.

One of the ways the JEF is spending its money is through “mini-grants” of up to $500 each.

Gooding said that members of the community can fill out an application proposing a new program “that supports our mission,” which is to provide “innovative programs that inspire young minds.” Applications are currently available at both school offices, the library, and Town Hall, Gooding said.

She stressed that the applications are carefully screened to make sure the proposals are suitable for the island’s children.

Approximately one-third of all the after school offerings at the Jamestown schools are funded through the JEF, Gooding said.

Spanish language instruction at the elementary level, a Scrabble club, golf lessons, and creative drama classes are a few of the JEFfunded programs, Gooding said.

The Conanicut Island Raptor Project, which helps students and adults track the migration and daily habits of the osprey that live at Marsh Meadows was partially funded through a JEF grant, Gooding said.

The JEF is looking to build its resources — both financially and in human resources — by establishing a membership roster, she said.

Since the foundation is a nonprofit corporation, yearly dues of $50 for an individual and $100 for a family are fully tax deductible. There are also other levels of financial support, Gooding said.

Upcoming program ideas for the JEF include a teen community service component to the Teen Center, Gooding said. This would bring kids into the community, and at the same time, allow them to earn community service “points” that they can cash in for programs or field trips that interest them.

Linking teens with the island’s senior citizens is another idea in the works.

“We’d like to see teens give a class in how to use e-mail” to the senior population, Gooding said.

“It’s a chance for them to make connections and give back,” Gooding said.

Additional members would allow the JEF to get involved in more projects, Gooding said, noting that the foundation has small board of directors and needs additional people to form sub-committees to take on certain tasks and fund-raisers.

“There are so many opportunities” for both children and adults, Gooding said.

Return to top