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Somers Education Foundation Eyes $1M Mark in Donations

Not-for-profit focusing on libraries and technology for 2012-13 school year.

With the Somers Central School District more than a week away from opening its doors to students, the Somers Education Foundation is already focusing on fund-raising initiatives and programs for the 2012-13 school year.

Since beginning in 1994, the not-for-profit foundation has awarded more than $900,000 in grants and scholarships. The largest grant to-date, a $60,000 award, went to help fund the construction of Power Libraries Learning Labs in all four Somers schools. Newly-elected Somers Board of Education President Sarena Meyer is a member of the SEF.  

The grants have also been used to purchase “SmartBoards” and other computer and audio-visual equipment for classrooms; for Fife and Drum Corps uniforms; and to fund diversity programs. And every year five graduating Somers High School seniors are awarded scholarships based on their leadership and merit. 

Helping fund "power libraries" is representative of the kind of work the SEF focuses on--mainly, programs that enrich learning that are not supported by school budgets or other organizations. These libraries incorporate the latest technologies in a comforting atmosphere that promote learning.

The multi-use spaces are meant for school-wide use during library classroom time and beyond. Some of the technologies included are iPads and flat-screen display panels. The power libraries help support the district's Strategic Vision & District Success Plan by providing an atmosphere and tools to learn 21st-century skills. 

Patch spoke with Somers Education Foundation Vice President Glenn Hintze, who has worked with the foundation for 10 years, about the 2012-13 goals and what's next for the foundation. 

Patch: What's new this year at the SEF?
Glenn Hintze: SEF will continue to support the Somers school district by awarding grants designed to benefit the greatest number of students, teachers and administrators. We raise most of our grant-making money through a series of events we will hold through the year. We are also embarking on a separate fund-raising mailing campaign to create more awareness of what we do and encourage more people to support us. 

P: What are the biggest challenges for the district?
GH: Budgets for the Somers schools district, and all districts, keep getting reduced. Yet they are being asked to do more with less to ensure our children get the best possible education. That's where we come in--to assist the district financially in realizing its goals. 

P: What initiatives will the SEF focus on this school year?
GH: We continue to heavily support the construction of the new "power libraries" in all the schools--a new way of learning and sharing in a comfortable environment that includes lots of technology and comfortable furniture.

P: How do you support the "power libraries"?
GH: Last year we awarded our largest grant ever--$60,000--to help fund this effort. Now we have just awarded another $20,000 to renovate the existing Somers Middle School (SMS) library into a "power library." There is a separate "library" in operation at SMS now named for late SEF Trustee Jack Kearney, who spearheaded the funding effort for it. Jack was a major believer in bringing technology to the schools.

P: Does the SEF focus primarily on technology?
GH: We do welcome grant requests --technology-related or not--from teachers, students, parents and the community at large, at all times.

P: How did you decide to focus on these initiatives?
GH: Many of these events are "signature" and have been well-attended and supported for years and we are appreciative. We try to have a mix of smaller "community" events--like the Variety Show and Carnival Night--and ones that have the potential to raise more money, like the Golf Outing and Gala Dinner. We also like the mix of events where families can attend, and those that are just for adults.

P: How much money do you hope to raise?
GH: We typically raise about $50,000 per year to earmark for grants and scholarships. We've given away over $900,000 in grants and scholarships since our founding in 1994. This year we hope to hit the $1 million mark in cumulative awarded grants. 

If you would like to support the Somers Education Foundation, you can learn more about upcoming events and fund-raising efforts on its website: www.sefny.org. The following events are scheduled for this fall:

- Annual Golf Outing, Oct. 11 at Anglebrook Club in Somers. Golfers and sponsors are welcomed;  

- Cupcake Wars, Oct. 20 featuring culinary creations by students and teachers at Somers High School;

- Annual Wine Tasting, Nov. 15 at a location to be determined. 

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