Jenda Nye and Lindsay Sousa, Cache County School District
Nearly 30 years after its inception, the Cache Education Foundation is making a powerful impact in Cache County School District classrooms. Founded in 1988 with the goal of providing classroom materials, the CEF has evolved to include much more than that. It now offers support in the form of classroom technology, scholarships for students and a variety of school-based programs and initiatives.
The CEF’s mission is to “assist the Cache County School District in providing a quality teaching and learning environment for students through funds and resources received from conscientious community and business members.” An impressive 100 percent of cash and in-kind donations is passed through to district schools.
The foundation recently reached an important milestone, having provided over $6 million to Cache County schools since its creation. However, this does not adequately capture its most recent growth. In 2015 alone, the CEF was able to distribute nearly $700,000 in funding to local schools. This remarkable achievement was accomplished through generous donations from individuals and businesses, including the Dell Loy & Lynnette Hansen Charitable Foundation.
One CEF grant opportunity that directly benefits students is the Tools for Schools grant. Awarded annually, Tools for Schools provides classrooms with needed books, equipment and other non-consumable supplies. As part of the grant process, educators submit a request for specific items — up to $200 each — that would support or augment their teaching.
In 2015, more than $134,000 worth of Tools for Schools grants were awarded. Teachers were presented with everything from hands-on manipulatives, to math board games, to Chromebooks, to light-up globes for geography. “Our goal is that every Tools for Schools grant directly enhances educational experiences for students,” Teri Lewis, executive director of the CEF, said. “Awards from the grant are generally hands-on learning tools which can be used in the classroom year after year.” This year, the Tools for Schools program is funding supplies for 700 classrooms across the district.
The Daniel Robert Lynch Art Education Program, which is hosted by the CEF, also offers monthly grants to educators, with a specific aim toward purchasing supplies to help integrate art projects into school curriculum. “This is the one area where a teacher can apply for consumables,” Lewis said. “However, it has to be an art project that will directly enhance the student’s education.”
Lewis gave an example of a class that studied Native American culture. The teacher of this class applied for a curriculum-linked grant, enabling the demonstration of Native American life through the construction of clay pinch pots. “Art education grants have to be curriculum linked,” Lewis said. “If there is a specific activity a teacher wants to do with students that applies to a teaching concept, we will help with that.”
In addition to gifting grants for classroom and art supplies, the CEF also recognizes outstanding district educators with the prestigious Hats Off Award. Teacher nominations for this award are submitted by students, parents, administrators, teachers, PTA and school community councils. As part of the award, recipients are given a $500 check.
Meg Erekson, an art teacher at Spring Creek Middle School, won the Hats Off Award in 2016, along with 12 other educators districtwide. She was touched to receive the award. “When you get the award, you get a letter from the person who nominated you and from the principal,” Erekson explained. “I was absolutely speechless. What they had to say was really awesome. It made me feel like I do make a difference, and I really do have a positive influence in the lives of people.”
Parents, community members and local businesses are invited to join the CEF in its mission to support local students and administrators. Aside from the traditional donations of cash or in-kind supplies, benefactors can also participate in the foundation’s annual events, such as the Christmas Tree Jubilee dinner and auction or the Driving for Education golf tournament.
For more information on the Cache Education Foundation, check out their website at cefut.org.