Laying the foundation for expanded horizons in education

From scholarships and awards to bringing in special speakers and activities for young people, school foundations have been expanding the horizons of students in Red Deer for years.

From scholarships and awards to bringing in special speakers and activities for young people, school foundations have been expanding the horizons of students in Red Deer for years.

The most recent addition has been the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Education Foundation, which launched in mid-February and had its first fundraising event in March, when New York Times bestselling author Immaculée Ilibagiza spoke.

Catholic board chair Christine Moore said the foundation idea came to the forefront with the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division celebrating its centennial year in 2009 and it seemed worthwhile to have a project that would be a legacy for the division for the next 100 years.

The Catholic division has joined with the Red Deer and District Community Foundation and hopes to collect contributions from individuals, agencies and corporations through sponsorships, grants and endowments to create an education trust for the school division. It will be used for projects at Catholic schools and to support Catholic school students.

“We’re hoping it will enhance Catholic education. It is to support non-core projects that are not supported by Alberta Education,” Moore explained. “So it’s not to subsidize Alberta Education. It is to enhance programming. It’s going to be very broad. It’s just the promotion of our Catholic schools. It could be in the form of a band trip or a drama group or a mission.”

The Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools was incorporated as a society in 1993, but has existed for the past two decades.

Bruce Buruma, who serves as the executive director of the foundation, said it started because a group of individuals realized there was a need to provide for things that weren’t available through regular funding.

Each year the foundation has a theme, with this past school year focusing on healthy active living and healthy active learning. The previous year’s theme was global awareness and understanding. As part of the theme over the past school year, the Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools has supported an in-line skating program, climbing walls at two middle schools and Olympic-related activities at schools. The foundation has also supported a production looking at body image to be performed for Grade 7 students.

Red Deer Public schools can apply for funding through the foundation and receive anywhere from $400 to $2,000 to help provide programs and activities that enrich students’ experiences at school. In the past, the foundation has supported technology, arts programs and speakers’ visits to schools.

Besides theme-related projects, the foundation gives ongoing grants for events like the Cross Country Ski Loppet, the Dawe Run, the Young Writer’s Conference and the Go Girl Event and holds the Striving for Excellence event each year to honour students and raise money for the foundation.

Buruma said it is another way for public schools to connect to the community and for the community to be part of the schools. He said if people have an interest in youth or want to leave a legacy, the school foundations can be a great way to do it.

The Red Deer College Foundation is the longest running education-related foundation in Red Deer, first incorporated in July 1982. The foundation, like all of the others, is a registered charity. It serves as the fundraising arm of RDC and attracts financial support for the students and programs at the college.

The foundation is overseen by Community Relations at RDC, which reports to the college president, with board members of the foundation helping set its priorities and gauging community opinion, as well as acting as fundraisers, donors and sponsors of the college.

The foundation holds approximately $7.5 million in endowments that help fund bursaries and scholarships for students and money that goes towards projects such as Building Communities Through Learning. Money is held in trust within the foundation and is held separately from general operating revenue at RDC.

Michael Donlevy, associate vice-president Community Relations at RDC, said as the official head of the foundation he takes his role of ensuring money donated is used for the purpose it was intended very seriously.

Lowell Hodgson, chair of the foundation board, got involved with after retiring from decades of service with the City of Red Deer because he wanted to continue to give back to the community during retirement. He said board members act as the eyes and ears of the community, helping connect people with the needs of the college and fundraising efforts.

“There is need and opportunity. I never consider any of the donations being made as gifts,” Hodgson said. “I more think of them as investments. I think there is an opportunity and a need for us to invest in our community and in our future and I know of no better investment than in our young people. I know of no better investment than training people who can help shape and develop the community we live in.”