Foundation helps Red Hook’s students to learn and grow

Group's involvement in a long list of projects makes a difference in the education environment

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From career and college advisement to new uses for technology, while helping children in need, the Red Hook Education Foundation (RHEF) is always there for Red Hook’s students.

As it moves into its fourth year as a charitable organization dedicated to enhancing public education, the foundation continues to build its success on the strong, community-wide support for Red Hook schools.

“During a time of diminishing resources and increasing expectations for student learning, the Red Hook Education Foundation serves an important function,” Red Hook schools superintendent Paul Finch said in a foundation news release. “The foundation helps maintain existing opportunities for children and allows us the flexibility to explore new opportunities.”

Without the foundation, he added, “we would not have a College and Career Transition Specialist at Red Hook High School, the garden curriculum at Mill Road Elementary, the debate and robotics clubs, and many other enriched opportunities.”

“I am particularly excited about the Foundation’s shift toward supporting technology initiatives within the district, and I look forward to continuing our successful collaboration in this area,” he said.

In past years, the foundation has worked closely with the school district and dozens of community volunteers to host large-scale career and college fairs. RHEF also donated $2,500 to support college admissions workshops and information sessions organized by Career & College Outreach Counselor Peg D’Onofrio during the 2013-14 school year, the second part of a $5,000 grant.

Over the summer, foundation volunteers obtained a $5,710 grant for the school district from the state’s Higher Education Services Corporation, which paid for a college tour for low-income students and parents.

“With RHEF’s assistance, I was able to take 12 students and four parents on a two-day, five-college tour,” says D’Onofrio. “Students were amazed at the opportunities that await them at college, and many learned of financial aid rewards they didn’t know existed. … Inspiring these students was the goal and, by all accounts, a goal that was overwhelmingly attained.”

As the school district explores opportunities accompanying increased Internet access for the middle and high school campuses, RHEF is supporting technology-focused professional development for staff and faculty.

Over the summer, the foundation funded the cost for Donna Seelbach, District Director of Technology, to attend the Building Learning Communities Conference, which focused on how meaningful teaching and learning are enhanced by technology.

The foundation also gave the school district a $6,579 grant for its recent project of installing classroom camera and projection equipment, to help provide a more highly visual and interactive teaching environment.

RHEF’s Student in Need Initiative is now a year old and, thanks to generous community donations, students with limited financial resources have been able to participate in school field trips, pay for school supplies, go to summer school, and purchase needed clothing items. The foundation offers donors the opportunity to honor a Red Hook teacher by making a donation in their name to the Student in Need Initiative.

The Mill Road classroom garden, for which RHEF is the fiscal sponsor, continues to flourish and now serves 100 percent of K-5 students with opportunities for hands-on learning, a successful collaboration between community volunteers and the school district. Thanks to the generosity of the community, a recent fundraiser held at the Elmendorph Inn raised over $8,000 for a new teaching garden at the high school that will be used by both middle and high school students..

Last summer’s RHEF benefit concert with singer-songwriter Amy Helm at the Bard College’s Spiegeltent was also a huge success, with a sold-out crowd of over 250 supporters attending. The event raised almost $25,000.

“We are fortunate to live in a community that values our children’s education,” says RHEF president Bonnie Goad. “The realities of today’s economy make it impossible for the school budget to cover everything that’s needed to support and inspire our students. Community support is vital to ensuring excellence and equity in our schools, and RHEF gives everyone an easy way to contribute at whatever level they can.”

The next college information session is College Financial Aid Night on Wed., Dec. 4 at 6pm in the high school cafeteria, featuring Jessica Bernier, director of financial aid for Vassar College. There will be an overview of federal, state, and institutional financial aid, including Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and College Scholarship Service (CSS) profiles.

The foundation is also looking for volunteers for fundraising and communications. For more information, go to www.redhookeducationfoundation.org, or send an e-mail to info@redhookeducationfoundation.org. Donations can be made via the website of by mail to: Red Hook Education Foundation, PO Box 2, Red Hook, N.Y. 12571.

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