As the weather warms and our community begins to slowly and carefully emerge from its Shelter in Place, we must remember that this pandemic is likely to continue to impact some of the most vulnerable members of community for the next few months, including our local students.
For nonprofits on the frontlines, the fiscal implication of COVID-19 has been significant, as none of their annual budgets could have taken into consideration the possibility of a global pandemic and the economic damage it could bring.
Among those nonprofits, Park City Education Foundation (PCEF) is no exception. As I shared last month, I’ve served as co-chair of PCEF’s Running with Ed (RWE) fundraising event, and am heartbroken it had to be canceled for later this month. Based on last year’s RWE record fundraising total, PCEF stands to lose $280,000 in critical funding for the 2020-2021 school year – a significant percentage of the $1.5-million they invest in Park City School District annually in programs like preschool, art and STEM.
While I’m disappointed we can’t celebrate our students as a community this month through Running with Ed, I’m encouraging everyone who has already paid their registration fee for this year to consider, if able, to change their runner registration into a runner donation, or log on to the RWE site to purchase a fun “Gap Year” t-shirt to show your support.
I asked my friend, Jennifer Billow, PCEF’s Associate Director of Communications and Development, to share the best ways that Parkites can help bridge the funding gap to serve the immediate needs of teachers and students throughout the District.
With the governor shuttering schools through the end of the year, teachers had to quickly adjust their method of instruction to accommodate at-home learning, which meant some found themselves without the necessary tools to efficiently teach their students.
“We knew there was going to be this giant shift in the direction of education because of distance learning,” Jen explained. “Teachers were finding that just talking to their kids via Zoom (online meetings) is super boring, so they’re asking for tools like iPads and other technology to amplify what their students are doing on a laptop to make a lesson more interesting.”
To quickly provide funding to teachers, PCEF ramped up its Express Grant program, which typically has a budget of $10,000 and awards grants of $1,000 or less. Recognizing the urgent need to support teachers instructing at-home, once RWE was cancelled, PCEF asked supporters to donate to the Express Grant program instead. Within the first 10 days, nearly $25,000 was raised.
The Express Grant fundraising goal is now $50,000, with funding earmarked for emergency requests, such as personal hygiene products and over-the-counter medicines for low-income families, classroom supplies some families are unable to provide for themselves at home, or new ed-tech resources for teachers (i.e. laptop compatible whiteboards, video/audio components, apps to enhance online learning). Jen noted these needs are likely to continue into the summer months, especially if summer school or bridge programs are put into place to support students who require additional instruction following the at-home learning period. To contribute to the Express Grant fund, please click here.
Also in need of urgent funding is Bright Futures, a program that mentors first-generation, low-income college students to help them from 10th grade through college graduation. This is accomplished by assisting students in choosing the right school, filling out financial aid forms and accessing critical resources to help them success in higher education. PCEF donors help bridge the gap between college expenses and what’s covered by scholarships and financial aid.
However, with most businesses closing or reducing services over the past few months and into the summer, the economic impact of COVID-19 has affected seniors and college students who relied on part-time jobs to help supplement their tuition.
“These kids are expected to contribute to their college costs by working part time, but their jobs dried up overnight,” Jen explained, adding, “Losing three to five months of income jeopardizes their ability to contribute.”
That’s why PCEF is seeking donations to support the 12 Bright Futures students currently in college and the 16 Park City High School seniors ready to start college in the fall. Ensuring these students are able to start and complete college through a life-changing contribution can be done by clicking here.
I encourage everyone to support PCEF – or any nonprofit near and dear to them – to the extent they are able, as supporting one another during these uncertain times can have benefits for both the recipient and the giver.
Park City Education Foundation and other frontline nonprofits are a few of the many reasons so many people Choose Park City for their new home or vacation property. To learn more about the variety of charitable organizations across Summit County that make the area so special, connect with Christine Grenney at 435-640-4238, or visit her website by clicking here.