2012-07-19 / News

Event will benefit schools

Education foundation helps finance afterschool events
BY KEN SHANE

The Jamestown Education Foundation was founded in 2004 by a small group of community members. They had originally gotten together to discuss how to provide educational and cultural enrichment opportunities for students in Jamestown.

The all-volunteer nonprofit has since funded a number of school activities – both afterschool and during class time. But financing for nonprofits can sometimes be tricky, which is the reason that the foundation will hold its biennial fundraiser on Saturday, July 28, at Dutch Harbor Boat Yard. The event – titled “Under a Setting Sun” – will be catered by Jamestown Fish. Tickets will include beer, wine and soda.

“We are pleased to host this event because I think it’s important for everyone to come together and support public education,” said Alison Eichler, owner of the Dutch Harbor Boat Yard. “If Dutch Harbor can be a place that brings people together, then we’re really proud to provide the space for the event.”

The education foundation works with the Jamestown schools and other community organizations to support initiatives that inspire students, encourage academic excellence, and promote healthy lifestyle choices. Some of the groups it has collaborated with include the Jamestown Teen Center and the town’s library.

The foundation awards grants and collaborates with its partner organizations. Together they are a major subsidy of all of the afterschool enrichment programs that are run at Lawn and Melrose avenue schools. These include art, cooking, fitness, robotics and drama programs. This year the foundation partnered with the Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation on a program where students raced model land yachts. The sailing foundation provided the teacher and the yachts – the JEF provided the funding.

“This year we also provided the final funding for the kidsROCK program that allowed them to move forward with that project,” said Sally Schott, who chairs the JEF’s nine-member board. kidsROCK is the boulder project being installed at Lawn Avenue School.

“Our goal is to fund programs for any child in Jamestown,” Schott said. “From kindergarten through high school.”

The foundation occasionally runs its own programs as well. One example is the afterschool violin program – the organization found the instructor itself. Recently the JEF provided a grant to Lisa Sheley, the children’s librarian, who used the funding to create an afterschool Lego program at the library.

Current plans include ongoing support of the Rigor and Relevance initiative in the Jamestown schools. The foundation provides grant money that allows teachers to develop and implement innovative educational experiences. Those experiences are part of what is known as “Quadrant D” in the Rigor and Relevance framework. Quadrant D activities offer opportunities for students to think and work – and to apply their learning to real-world situations.

Although the budgets for a number of afterschool and other enrichment programs have been cut nationwide, Schott doesn’t see that as the impetus for funding. “We’ve been pretty fortunate in this community,” she said. “There wasn’t a big afterschool program that we funded that got slashed.”

JEF funding comes primarily from donations. Those contributions come from the party that is held every other year, as well as an annual fundraising newsletter. The organization also applies for grants and has received significant funding from NASA and the Van Buren Charitable Foundation to create a science and math program in the schools. The program is designed to stimulate interest in science and math through real-world applications by creating relationships with local universities and businesses.

This year’s fundraiser will include a silent auction. Some of the items that can be bid on include a baseball signed by Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine; Red Sox tickets for seats behind home plate; an overnight stay at Castle Hill with dinner; a charter of the schooner Aurora; a catered dinner for 10 with a private chef; and plenty of art.

Tickets for the benefit are $75. They can be purchased by mailing a check to the Jamestown Education Foundation, 77 Narragansett Ave., Jamestown, RI 02835. They can also be bought by calling Schott at 423-2388.

“One thing that I think is great about this particular event is the community spirit,” Schott said. She referred to Dutch Harbor Boat Yard, which is donating its space, and Jamestown Fish, which is catering the event. “That part of it is exciting for because we see two important pieces of the community rallying around us.”

She continued: “We are so impressed by the strength of the support we get from the Jamestown community. There are certainly parents with kids in the Jamestown schools who are among our supporters, but our supporters are also year-round residents who don’t have kids, summer residents, and school administrators. Our supporters are everyone in the community. We’re always heartened by that.”

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