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A Publication of WTVP

Most of us intuitively know that describing young people as “our future” is more than a trite phrase…it is truth.

Common sense and the latest research confirm that the most successful efforts to educate youth require the involvement of the broader community.

Our goal at the Peoria Public Schools Foundation is to challenge us all to embrace that truth, redefine the concept of “investment” in a human sense, and realize the unlimited potential sitting in the classrooms of our public schools.

Oftentimes we think about school through the kids in our lives. Think about that young girl who lives just down your street—the one nicknamed “Gracie.” You know just a little about her. She’s the one who learned to ride a bike last year, likes wearing pink and has the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. Gracie’s headed into kindergarten this coming fall. It is an exciting time for her family. Entering school is all she talks about now, nervously and excitedly imagining her future.

The community and business leaders who serve on the PPS Foundation Board of Directors carefully consider the financial investment our community is about to make in Gracie’s future, and then work to ensure she has all the tools she needs to succeed.

Imagine if Gracie is able to have a high-tech smart board for her classroom, a tutoring session not offered by her school, a teacher who attends a research-based training…

That’s where we come in.

Impacting the Classroom
Since the PPS Foundation’s 1992 inception and 1998 incorporation, the independent non-profit entity has made a tangible impact reaching thousands of Peoria Public Schools’ students. One focus is to support classroom grants. Since 1998 alone, the Foundation has spent $150,000 directly supporting teachers in this way.

The PPS Foundation directs an average of $20,000 to student scholarships each year. Our long list of scholarship programs continues to grow, as private donors seek to honor loved ones, support their alma maters or encourage student interest in particular fields.

Still, our primary focus remains in the classroom. Currently, the PPS Foundation is working closely with District 150 leadership to assess how to best support the district-wide push for improved technology. The Foundation has already directed hundreds of thousands of donated dollars toward the purchase of smart technology for smarter classrooms, an investment that is yielding data-proven gains in student achievement.

Sometimes, Foundation efforts start at the basics, offering a human connection that can make all the difference for students. We support truancy assessment staff, trained to support students who display poor attendance through counseling and coordination of community services to meet their individual needs. These efforts have resulted in substantial drops in chronic truancy throughout the district, a result in which we take pride.

Foundations Growing in Numbers
Our efforts reflect a growing trend, as school foundations across the nation are now striving to complement the capacity of school districts in a necessary partnership.  

It is no secret that the mandate of public education is expanding exponentially as public funding sources diminish. Perhaps never before in history have economic conditions for local and state governments, the private sector, and therefore, common households, been so stressed. Research concludes that shrinking tax revenues and budget cuts, coupled with parents’ rising expectations of what their children deserve, are helping to fuel the growth of school foundations.

We believe rising expectations are a good thing, but they require resources. “Absolutely [school foundations] are growing in numbers,” says Jim Collogan, executive director of the nonprofit National School Foundation Association (NSFA). “They are meeting funding, leadership and awareness needs. We live in a competitive society…and there’s a greater demand for resources.”

School districts across the country are now patterning after the college foundation model, realizing what colleges have known for decades: there is a substantial base of individuals who recognize the value of supporting public education.

National statistics indicate that donors are trending away from an exclusive focus on post-secondary institutions and are looking to support their local elementary and secondary schools more. In 2006, $41 billion was donated to education in the U.S., the second largest recipient category (following religion) of philanthropic donations in the nation.

To put us into further numerical context, the NSFA lists more than 50 school foundations in Illinois alone.

That’s where you come in.

Stepping Up to the Challenge
Businesses, organizations and individual donors throughout this community are stepping up to the challenge of successfully educating children, and they are recognizing logical connections between the work they do and the students who will do their work in the future.

For example, Methodist Medical Center of Illinois recently donated generously to the Health Education Academy at Manual High School. School administrators plan to use the funds to purchase supplies for hands-on preparation for health careers.

While surely a benevolent gift, it also represents an investment that makes sense. The students who walk the halls of our schools today will be the physicians and technicians walking the halls of our hospitals tomorrow. Our care for them will undoubtedly be returned in the form of care for us one day.

These types of connections with community organizations are vital to our cause, but individual donors should not question their own ability to make a difference. Experts reveal that $20 per student can have an impact on their learning and an extra $20 can produce an even more substantial change in quality of education.

The PPS Foundation will happily work with any person or entity that answers the call of our community’s schools. Within these schools are devoted professionals and remarkable children who strive each day to better their situation and their understanding of our world.

The PPS Foundation serves as a bridge between our schools and the community they serve. In perhaps our most important function, we build positive community relationships that are mutually beneficial and designed to last. The result is a brighter future for all of us, provided by a generation of young people whose intellectual and personal development is well-nurtured by their community.

If we don’t nurture that growth, who will?

Back to our neighbor…We know Gracie will someday grow up to be the manager of a department at Caterpillar, the doctor who cares for the patients in town, the customer service manager at Illinois Mutual, or perhaps the founder of a new company, Gracie’s MedTech Manufacturing.
Yet we don’t just see Gracie for her role in the workforce. At the PPS Foundation, we also envision her as a successful parent, voter, taxpayer, donor to local charity, and perhaps, an elected official serving her community.

So the next time you see a “Gracie” in your neighborhood, think about what you might do to ensure she succeeds. Don’t miss this amazing investment opportunity. Our children, our future, depend on it. iBi

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