Support HEF Campaign
Author(s): Emily Wells Gianfortoni
Date: January 3, 2015
Section: Opinion (Open Forum)
To all graduating classes of Harrisonburg High School: Let's fund the Harrisonburg Education Foundation to show our appreciation to all Harrisonburg teachers, past and present. The Harrisonburg High School Class of 1964 has established a campaign to raise $64,000 by our 55th reunion in 2019. The inspiration came from the success of our very first fund raising effort during our five-year class reunion in 1969.
Class members contributed $1,000 to be awarded as a scholarship to an African-American student in the graduating class of 1969. The Class of 1964 was the last segregated class to graduate from HHS. To show the support for the long-awaited integration of Harrisonburg City Schools, class leaders decided to award the scholarship to a worthy African-American student recommended by the guidance department. Thus, Mary Ann Smith Tucker was chosen. The scholarship helped her attend Virginia State University and graduate with a degree in elementary education.
Those of us who received our education in the Harrisonburg City Schools can claim the benefits of our public school education in our subsequent careers. I have fond memories of excellent teachers such as Ms. Watkins, Mrs. Meeks, Mr. Logan, Miss Seig, Mr.Saum, and many more.
Thanks to the strong foundation I received during my years in the Harrisonburg school system, I was able to complete my education at top national universities. The education I received in Harrisonburg prepared me well for my future academic endeavors. Judging from the career paths and educational trajectories of fellow classmates, I know that my experience was not unique.
At our 50th-class reunion last August in Harrisonburg, the story of Mary Ann Smith Tucker inspired a group of class members to explore how to continue contributing to Harrisonburg schools. Fourteen members of the class formed a study committee to shape our vision and to set concrete goals and strategies. We decided to give back to Harrisonburg schools through the Harrisonburg Education Foundation. Over the course of several months the committee hammered out a mission statement which included support for the mission of HEF and a goal of raising at least $64,000 "to create an endowed fund for teachers to create educational opportunities that would otherwise not be available."
Even more important than raising the $64,000 is the goal of having 100 percent participation of all class members. One of the members of the committee has contributed $100 for each of our deceased class members to help reach 100 percent participation.
The committee sent out a letter to class members in late November requesting contributions to the HEF over the next five years. Already more than $20,000 has been pledged and over $8,000 in donations has been received.
The study committee decided to make an initial contribution of $5,000 to HEF to support the Any Given Child Program, sponsored by the Kennedy Center. The program aims to expand access to and enhance arts education (including music) in grades K-8. This was a competitive program, and Harrisonburg was one of only 15 public school systems nationwide selected to participate.
Because the program was designed to be a partnership, the Harrisonburg community is required to show its support by contributing $25,000 to Any Given Child. Thus, designating our initial $5,000 contribution to HEF for community support for the Kennedy Center program was an easy choice. We hope other graduates will join us in this effort.
The study committee voted to use the remainder of the funds generated to award annual education grants to Harrisonburg teachers. They will be able to submit applications to HEF in order to receive grants that enhance instruction and education experiences for students still attending Harrisonburg public schools.
Members of HHS Class of 1964 hope that our fundraising campaign will be successful not only in raising $64,000, but will also inspire other classes to support HEF. If the more than 7,500 graduates of HHS would each contribute to the Harrisonburg Education Foundation, imagine the programs and grants HEF would be able to fund!
Emily Wells Gianfortoni, who now resides in Richmond, is a member of the Harrisonburg High School Class of 1964 committee spearheading a campaign to increase support for the Harrisonburg Education Foundation.