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West Fargo Educational Foundation makes a difference

Giving Hearts Day is quickly approaching (Feb. 8), and the West Fargo Educational Foundation is pleased to officially be one of the new organizations eligible to receive matching funds from this event. The Foundation has been active for the past several years and is doing great things to support students, staff, and our community. I am privileged to serve as a non-voting member of the Foundation Board, and am grateful to this hardworking group for their vision and commitment to our school district. The Foundation's mission is: "Recognizing our heritage while supporting innovative and inspired learning," and their work and the funds they raise truly have gone above and beyond what the district might have afforded for students and staff.

An example of an initiative supported by the Foundation is the West Fargo High School Hall of Fame Celebration in the fall, during Homecoming Week. Outstanding alumni, staff, teams, and community supporters of WFPS are recognized. A second example is funding of up to $5,000 in mini-grants for teachers who want to do something creative, groundbreaking, or "out of the box." The Foundation solicits written grant proposals and then funds projects up to $500. This year alone, the Foundation will be giving funds to 4th graders at Freedom Elementary to participate in a Day of Compassion Retreat, to the Westside Elementary library media center for the creation of maker spaces for hands-on activities, and to all four secondary schools in the district for transportation costs associated with getting students the out-of-school supports they need to be successful.

Another concept proposed and under study is to raise funding for scholarships or support for new Americans to become paraprofessionals or teachers in the school district. It is important for students to see both windows and mirrors in the staff and the curriculum. Although we have an increasingly diverse student population, there is limited diversity among staff and this effort could help us "grow our own."

One final, very exciting effort under development is the "Little Red Reading Bus." This is modeled after a similar, very successful, effort in Grand Forks. A bus is outfitted as a mobile library, and makes the circuit to community parks and neighborhoods in the summer months so students don't slip academically, and so they maintain a zest for reading. Many students do not have transportation or access to a library when school is not in session. A donor has already committed to buy a used bus, and now funding is needed to help outfit it with shelves, books, and other resources. The Little Red Reading Bus will be driven and staffed by volunteers.

We are so fortunate to live in a community that cares. We are grateful to the Dakota Medical Foundation, the Impact Foundation, and the Alex Stern Family Foundation for the incredible gift of matching funds that support so many worthy organizations. We are excited that the West Fargo Educational Foundation is one of these eligible organizations, and hope that generous supporters of West Fargo Public Schools will designate some of their giving to the West Fargo Educational Foundation so they can continue developing these creative and exciting projects for our students, staff, and community.