Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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April 14, 2012

Foundation launched to help schools

GOSHEN — Teachers with Goshen Community Schools gained a powerful new resource Friday with the official launch of the Goshen Community Schools Foundation.

Vince Turner, president of the GCS Foundation, introduced the new not-for-profit organization to the Goshen community during a press conference held on the Goshen High School campus Friday afternoon.

According to Turner, the idea for the new foundation first began back in May 2008 when a group of local volunteers started seriously exploring the need for an education foundation in Goshen, as this had been a long standing goal of the Board of Goshen Community Schools.

“If you look at the current economic climate with both the budget crunches and cuts, and also the growing emphasis on more innovative and new educational opportunities, we started as just a group out there in the community who felt like we wanted to be a part of the solution,” Turner said. “So we started looking for an opportunity to get private dollars from people who deeply care about what’s going on, and funneling it into a more direct resource.”

Turner noted that bylaws and other start up documents have been written for the GCS Foundation and the Internal Revenue Service approved the application for the foundation to become a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in 2011.

Through its formation, Turner said the committee’s hope for the foundation is to be able to bring individuals and the private sector together to develop positive and supportive relationships to embrace and support excellence within Goshen Community Schools.

“At least in the early stages, one of the things we’re going to focus on is our desire to seed innovative projects both inside and outside the classroom, and part of that is having people come to us with new ideas,” Turner said. “Right now we have two big projects lined up, one on the funded sided and one on the fundraising side.”

On the fundraising side, the GCS Foundation has chosen to launch with a “Thank A Teacher” fundraising campaign, where parents of current elementary students will receive a brochure describing how they can make a tax-deductible gift to the foundation in honor of a teacher who has made a difference in their children’s lives.

“Local residents and alumni as well as parents of older students will receive a brochure with the Goshen Community Schools newsletter that will arrive at each home in Elkhart Township later this month,” Turner said.

As for the first project to be funded by the new education foundation, Turner said a new middle school summer camp experience has been planned at Ball State University for students identified as capable of achieving an International Baccalaureate diploma in high school, but who come from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background where they might need extra encouragement and support in order to achieve such a high academic goal.

“Shelly Wilfong, head of the GCS International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, actually came to us with the idea,” Turner said. “By exposing students to a college campus and introducing them to their future academic advisor teachers, the aim is to improve the outcome of successful achievement in coursework that will provide college level coursework while still in high school. The hope is that this will inspire these young people to continue with their success in college.”

Although the GCS Foundation is the first of its kind in Elkhart County, Turner noted that there are over 50 K-12 school foundations already in existence in Indiana whose models have helped to shape the direction of the new Goshen foundation.

“K-12 education foundations serve a vital economic development role in promoting the strength of their local school systems to attract businesses to locate in their areas by funding projects that promote higher student achievement and excellence in education,” Turner said. “We’ve been looking at some of those, such as the foundation in Warsaw, and the foundation for Penn Schools, and we’ve been learning a lot. So we’re going to learn as we grow as well.”

As funds grow within the organization, Turner indicated that the GCS Foundation will continue seeking other opportunities to provide seed money to get innovative projects funded that will support the educational opportunities for all students who fall under the umbrella of Goshen Community Schools. Turner noted than an endowment will also be built in order to continue to provide support to the foundation in perpetuity.

In addition to Turner, other members of the new GCS Foundation Board include: Roger Nafziger, secretary; David Swihart, treasurer; Steve Kercher; Andrea Thalheimer; Todd Eby; Lisa Hetler; Ruth Metcalfe; Mark Podgorski; Bill Rieth; and Mary Jo Thomas. 

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