Submitted by Pam Walker, Teton Valley Education Foundation Executive Director
This piece was originally published in the June 2, 2016 issue of the Teton Valley News as part of the weekly Nonprofit Spotlight presented by the Community Foundation of Teton Valley.
In 2005, a group of hard-working parents and educators banded together to form the Teton Valley Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing opportunities for excellence in Teton School District #401 schools. As the fundraising arm that supports the tireless work of our teachers and staff, our success is dependent upon the generosity of donors throughout the region who believe that quality education is the basis for a strong community and that “Young Minds Matter.” We’re excited to be able to share with you exactly how you have made a difference in the lives of approximately 1,800 students each year.
While we cannot begin to capture in writing everything that our donors have made possible, we can touch on the major programs that the Foundation is able to annually support. Your gifts have enabled us to continuously fund a program called ArtReach which provides one art class a month to grades K-5 taught by a certified art teacher. Your donations have helped non-English speaking children learn to read and write in English through the District’s English Language Learners Program, giving them the tools to succeed in our country. Your gifts have provided vision and hearing screening throughout our elementary schools, sometimes resulting in us purchasing glasses so a student can actually see to read and learn. Through the generosity of numerous companies and foundations, Teton High School continues to host a youth mentorship program called VOICE that has helped reduce bullying and teen suicides. Your donations have helped us fund teacher grants that provide computers, books, classroom equipment and other necessary supplies in classrooms throughout the district. Your donations have also made it possible for us to provide scholarships to graduating seniors, field trips to Yellowstone and Teton Science School and stimulate the minds of young mathematicians and scientists through our Middle School and High School robotic programs.
Many people ask us, shouldn’t the district be paying for these things? Idaho ranks second to last in the nation on the public dollars spent per student on education. The latest stats available from 2013 show that Idaho spends $6,791 per student while our neighbor, Wyoming, spends $15,700 per student. Despite this disparity, our community has given our teachers the tools and means to ensure their students receive the same quality education experience in Teton Valley as in other states throughout the nation.
Many of our stories don’t have names or faces because the Teton Valley Education Foundation oftentimes works behind the scenes to help students in need. Recently, a teacher came to us telling us about how this young girl who was new to the school and having a hard time adapting had finally found something she was excited about…playing in the school band. But the school didn’t have an instrument for her to play and her family couldn’t afford to purchase the instrument. The instructor described how excited the young girl had become in class and how desperately she wanted to play. Imagine the joy on the face of that child when she learned that a critical needs grant from the Community Foundation of Teton Valley enabled us to buy the instrument for the school that would be hers to use.
As parents, you see firsthand that our teachers are tireless advocates for our children. Imagine a teacher’s relief in knowing that because of your support, they don’t have to spend their nights and weekends writing grants and worrying about how to get their students’ extracurricular educational experiences funded. Because of the support for education within Teton Valley, their students are able to learn how to design, program and build a robot that can compete on the same level as other schools nationwide or experience the scientific wonders of Yellowstone through a weeklong field trip.
Finally, imagine the look of surprise on a young child’s face as the blurry words on the board come into focus because we were able to purchase a pair of glasses that, because of a lack of resources, her family could not afford. The doors to a vast, exciting future are ahead for that child because someone in this community cared.
Through your support of the Teton Valley Education Foundation, you are making a difference in the lives of every student and teacher in Teton Valley. To learn more about the Teton Valley Education Foundation, contact us at [email protected] or call 208-228-5925, ext 4121.
If you are affiliated with a Teton Valley nonprofit, we want to hear from you! Help us share why Teton Valley nonprofits matter. Each week, the Community Foundation will highlight a local nonprofit in the pages of the Teton Valley News. Email Dawn Banks, Marketing and Programs Director, at [email protected] or call 208.354.0230. We look forward to helping share your story!