foundation hopes to hit $1M mark
Since being founded in 1993 by parents and local businesses, the foundation has awarded about 650 grants totaling more than $900,000, all aimed at bettering the education of students in the township's public schools. Its goal this year is to award at least $100,000, thus reaching the million-dollar mark.
"The whole purpose of the foundation is to enrich and enhance education in East Brunswick," said EBEF President Ellen Shur. "We really do believe that the grants we award make a difference in students' lives."
EBEF gives out "mini grants" from $500 at the elementary level to $1,000 at the secondary level throughout each year. Larger grants are awarded twice during the school year.
School administrators approve all grants, but EBEF tends to fund ideas that are somewhat "outside the box," according to Shur, who noted that they don't fund school trips and they don't fund parties.
"Our grants are for creativity, things that the students would not be able to have otherwise. But every grant has an educational value or purpose," she said.
Over the years, entire school communities have benefited from presentations by authors, poets, artists and historians, according to Patricia LaDuca, coordinator of community relations and programs for the school district. Foundation grants have also enabled teachers to attend Columbia University's Reading and Writing Project, allowing them to bring research-based practices to the district's balanced literacy program.
Last year's "We Are Your Voice" grant stands out in the minds of many. The program enabled a group of 160 middle school students to adopt eight Holocaust survivors for a day. Divided into eight groups, each assigned to one of the survivors, the students interviewed the survivors and learned their personal stories. They also catalogued photos and Holocaust memorabilia, wrote stories and created scrapbooks. The events were videotaped and edited by students in East Brunswick High School's video production classes.
The goal of the project was to preserve the stories forever and to integrate the information into the district curriculum. A professional DVD was created in the spring, and during the summer there was a professional development workshop in which staff members integrated the DVD into the curriculum.
"The foundation is one of the great causes to support, because 100 percent of what is donated goes directly to help students in the classroom," said EBEF Executive Vice President Jack Levitt. "We're giving them a chance to do something that teachers couldn't do within the confines of the school budget."
Levitt made note of the SMART Boards that EBEF has been helping to purchase and place in elementary school classrooms throughout the district. The interactive whiteboards are touch-sensitive displays that connect to computers and digital projectors.
"Putting those in the schools has made a noticeable difference in the way teachers run the class," Levitt said.
Big fundraisers on tap
EBEF's grants committee is currently reviewing applications for the first round of large grants - "The First Lady of the Foundation Grants," in honor of EBEF cofounder Amy Fisher. These will be announced shortly, in time for the annual Fall Fashion Show on Oct. 17. Applications for the second round of larger foundation grants are due in early January and will be celebrated at the annual Partner in Excellence Dinner on March 5.
The Fall Fashion Show and the Partner in Excellence Dinner are EBEF's largest fundraisers.
This year's Fall Fashion Show, co-sponsored by Commerce Bank, will feature fashions by Sigrid Olsen, out of the Freehold Raceway Mall, Freehold Township. Staff members from the schools will be the models, and theme basket raffles donated by area businesses, PTAs, staff and members of the foundation are a highlight of the event, which will be held at the East Brunswick Chateau.
The Partner in Excellence Dinner will be held at the Hilton East Brunswick. This year the foundation will honor Hammarskjold Middle School teachers Stephanie Margolies and Susan Pomerantz, who authored and implemented the "We Are Your Voice" grant, East Brunswick High School alumnus and Americana Hospitality Group President Constantine Katsifis, and Saint Peter's University Hospital, New Brunswick.
The foundation will undertake some additional fundraising projects this year. To that end, an East Brunswick alumnus has offered to match any "new" money, up to $15,000, that the group is able to raise this year.
Foundation members are asking the community for help reaching the $1 million mark this year, and it welcomes any kind of help the community can offer. To that end, Shur reiterated what a colleague once said.
"Give us your time, and/or your talent, and/or your treasure," she said. "We're always looking for new members and new ideas."
The EBEF is also welcoming new business partnerships.
For more information, visit its Web site at www.ebef.org.
PHOTOS BY JEFF GRANIT
Linda Salkeld, a teacher at Bowne-Munro
Elementary School in East Brunswick, goes over a vowel exercise with Stacey
Rodriguez using a SMART Board, an interactive projection screen that has
been placed in many classrooms with help from the East Brunswick Education
Teacher Linda Salkeld points while student
Eva Tell looks on.
First-grader Olivia Cassarino draws on a SMART Board.