Foundation strives to improve education

MONTE VISTA— The Monte Vista Education Foundation met Thursday, July 6 at Nino’s to discuss a variety of topics. The foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3), lists its mission, “to make a difference in the lives of Monte Vista’s students by promoting the value of education and work ethic. To accomplish this, the foundation solicits endowment funds through gifts, testamentary bequests, charitable remainder trusts, etc., while challenging educational, civic, and business communities to provide the encouragement and resources necessary to promote student excellence and motivation.”
Some of the projects recently assisted or funded by the foundation include the Jean Ritchey Memorial Scholarships, the Makers Space 3D Printer, RoboRave Chrome Books and robotics equipment, UNICEF Kid Power Bands and other projects totaling over $30,000 over the last two years.
The foundation discussed how their current investments, especially those to fund the Jean Ritchey Memorial Scholarship, have all been showing steady growth. The foundation has received $54 from the Amazon Smiles program and $720 in employee contributions. President Gary Wilkinson also noted the alumni group has been stagnant following a divide created by a member who did not want to be associated with the foundation. Other members of the alumni group have been trying to reorganize under the Foundation, which member Gigi Dennis noted was especially important because alumni are a good source of fundraising. She also suggested the foundation could track which classes are donating what amounts to create some competition and to allow the foundation to see what eras or years aren’t being contacted or adequately keeping track of the school’s projects.
The foundation addressed two funding requests, the first from Vickie Welch with the Learn to Swim program. The program takes third and fourth grade students to Hooper, two classrooms at a time for swimming lessons. One class, roughly 20 students at a time, will be in the pool while the other class gets lessons on aquatic habitats. Welch’s request stated, “Not only is swimming a wonderful lifetime sport, but knowing how to swim and stay safe near water is an essential safety skill. All students receive two hours of water safety lessons before going to the pool; then all students receive three hours of instruction in the water at the pool.” Welch noted the students pay $15 to cover supplies, but the expenses include $82 per hour to use the pool and an adequate amount of bottled water, as she emphasizes proper hydration. “I don’t care if they are Olympic swimmers but by the end they should be on their back,” she answered when asked about their skill level. Welch’s request of $1,000 to help fund the programs expenses was approved unanimously.
Loree Harvey, a biology teacher at Monte Vista High School, proposed a banner project to recognize students who qualify for and attend the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Harvey explained that there are permanent fixtures in the high school to recognize a variety of accomplishments, especially athletic, but nothing to recognize the ISEF students despite Monte Vista’s pride in their STEM programs and long history of accomplishments in science. Fifty-two students have qualified for ISEF since 1982. Harvey explained she has sought quotes from companies and SchoolPride has given her a quote for a four by six foot sign with individual slots to put the existing 52 students’ names, years and either high school level or project name, with room for more in the future. The cost is $500 for the sign and $235 for shipping; $300 has been donated from Monte Vista High School and Gary Wilkinson and another $200 has been donated from Jenny and Chad Etter. The Etters received an anonymous donation of $1,800 from someone on the science fair board two years ago when their son qualified for ISEF and they weren’t sure if they could pay for his attendance. They consider the donation to the board project their way of giving back.
Harvey requested $235 in shipping plus about $30 annually to add names from the education foundation, but the members in attendance rejected her current quote and plan for not being enough. Superintendent Robert Webb expressed concerns about the consistency of the sign design with some of the other signs in the high school and encouraged Harvey to seek a quote from Ion Graphics, as they have stencils saved for the school that would look better.
Member Gene Farish agreed, adding that while the sign picture provided by SchoolPride was functional, “it will just look like something plastic near the concession stand,” and it should be more prominent. Dennis suggested looking up the 52 students who have gone so far and requesting donations for the board would be a good way to make connections and raise some of the additional money for a better sign. The foundation noted they appreciated Harvey’s efforts to keep the costs down but agreed they would be willing to pay more to support a local business making the sign, keeping it stylistically consistent with others at the school and to best recognize the immense achievement of the ISEF students. Wilkinson pointed out Monte Vista High School sends more students to ISEF than any other school in the state. Webb also added that a ceremony when the sign is put up could be arranged as well. The foundation tabled Harvey’s proposal pending a quote from Ion Graphics.
The foundation formerly amended their procedures for the Jean Ritchey Memorial Scholarship to be renewable for four years. The scholarship provides up to three graduates a year with a $2,500 a year scholarship. According to foundation, “Alice Jean Sater Ritchey graduated from Rio Grande County High School (now Monte Vista High School) in the late 1930s. She graduated as a registered nurse in 1942, served her country in World War II and retired as a Navy LCDR in 1966. She worked in a civilian hospital in Washington until her second retirement. After her passing at the age of 94, her estate contacted the Monte Vista School District about her wishes to leave a very large sum of money to be used for scholarships for Monte Vista students. The school district charged the Monte Vista Education Foundation with the money so it could be invested in order to positively affect as many students as possible.” Wilkinson also proposed making the renewal process easier; noting previous recipient Presley Garcia completed all aspects of the renewal process except for the letters of recommendation. The foundation agreed to change the renewal process to a proof of enrollment and GPA and voted to award a renewal to Garcia.
Dennis asked about the possibility of adding incentives for students who attend Adams State University or Trinidad State Junior College, but Webb stated that was not outlined by Ritchey’s estate. Member Jeff Keck also argued students should be encouraged to leave the Valley if they want to, because college is often their only opportunity to experience life elsewhere. Keck agreed that it would be ideal if students came back after college but disagreed with making staying in the Valley a requirement. Wilkinson and Farish agreed, adding they had previously discussed finances with scholarship requirements and decided any student who meets the qualifications should be able to apply regardless of their parents’ income level, so adding a school requirement wouldn’t be efficient either.
Webb and Dennis suggested discussing matching scholarships with the ASU Foundation or TSJC and partnering with them for other scholarships in the future. The foundation is seeking the involvement and donations of community members who want to encourage their mission and enhance the education and opportunities of Monte Vista students. They are one of only two such foundations in the Valley (the other is Sargent). Their next meeting will be Thursday, Oct.12; more information is available on their Facebook page and their website

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