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Removing Barriers: A Blog on Education in Vermont
Planting Seeds for the Coming School Year
Barbara M. Benedict
McClure Foundation Vice President
Spring is coming to Vermont and with it comes our beloved gardening season! We’ll finalize plans, then sow, transplant, and weed so our gardens can evolve into our visions of what they ought to be.
For the McClure Foundation, too, this is the season to review the strengths and weaknesses of past funding cycles and to study current state and national trends in education (the “seed catalogue” we study all winter) so that we can increase the chances of success for our 2013-2014 school year funding efforts. We’ll evaluate current programs to weed out projects that are no longer relevant, effective, or sustainable. We’ll look for model projects that might be transplanted to benefit other communities within Vermont. And we’ll collaborate with our proven funding partners to fashion local and statewide solutions to help expand upon the post-secondary and workforce education opportunities available to Vermonters.
We all struggle to use our time, talents, and treasures to make a difference — even foundations. Our strategy starts with a family tradition of giving back to the community by helping others to succeed and is guided by a long-term vision of what we wish to pass on to future generations of Vermonters: a vibrant, world-class economy that supports optimal quality of life in Vermont.
We seek to assist accountable Vermont organizations — both public and private — with the capacity, energy, flexibility, and vision to help realize the potential of Vermont’s greatest resource — Vermonters! We thrive on collaboration with the dedicated professionals and volunteers working on the ground level with Vermont students, on the partnerships we form with our fellow funders, and on the interest we’ve generated among philanthropic-minded individuals and institutions wanting to learn more about our work.
We are so excited by Vermont’s renewed commitment to educational excellence on so many levels.
This spring our foundation board will keep foremost in our minds that educational goals fall flat when students and their families are hungry. We’ve learned that Introduction to College Studies (ICS) and extracurricular school activities are becoming a luxury for increasing numbers of Vermont students whose families need the income from teens’ after-school jobs to help put food on their tables. We’ve been truly humbled, too, by the challenges (tuition and textbook cost, childcare, time constraints) faced by adults attempting to further their own educations. And we’ve learned how critical it is that Vermont’s philanthropic community unites to generate efficiencies and to collaborate meaningfully with Vermont’s education professionals and elected officials to bring about changes we all seek.
It is always a challenge to make each funding dollar count. In hard economic times, foundations, as well as individuals, are pulled more toward supporting basic, concrete needs. This year the McClure Foundation will give extra scrutiny to “abstract” projects geared toward the long-term, systemic improvement of post-secondary and workforce education within the state. More than ever, funding proposals submitted to us will be evaluated by the number of Vermonters they impact directly and by the number of matching dollars they might attract from generous individuals and organizations. And we will take every opportunity to urge Vermonters of every age and income level to use their time, talents, and treasures on behalf of those in need.
Today, for example, we ask you to consider a gift to the Vermont Foodbank, or to consider employing in your garden, home, or business a paid intern or neighbor from down the block. Please consider mentoring a young person — in the same consistent manner you would tend your garden.
Finally, as graduation approaches for close to 7,000 Vermont high school seniors, please join us in wishing them well and supporting them as they transition to the next step in their life-long journeys of discovery and service.