A life raft has been thrown to help the cash-starved after-school and summer programs at the White Salmon Valley School District.
After several years of scrambling to patch together funding on a year-to-year basis, the Paul G. Allen Charitable Foundation has agreed to provide $10,000 per year over the next three years to hire a coordinator who will work to secure reliable funding for the "Project Open Door" programs.
"The position is not for a grant writer per se," explained Henkle Middle School Principal Rick George. "He or she will be responsible for a more efficient way to develop ongoing, year after year processes to secure local support. Our hope is that it will take the uncertainty away. Right now, we almost live and die on whether we can get grants. It's tough when we don't know one year to the next if we'll have a program or not."
The programs offer students at Whitson Elementary School and Henkle Middle School activities geared to provide "academic and enrichment programs" after regular classes end for the day and for the summer.
"This will provide the opportunity to hire someone to help us look for additional resources for our after-school programs," explained Vicki Prendergast, Whitson's principal. "It will not go to run the program itself, but to hire a person to help us find funding sources. In that way, it's substantial. We've never had that before."
The school district hopes to hire a local person for the part-time position beginning on Jan. 1.
The person hired will coordinate a "sustainability team" comprised of volunteers from the community and administrators from the two schools. Members of the group will work to secure long-term funding for these programs. The team's goal will be:
Identify a core group of individuals and businesses that will give continuing and consistent monetary support;
Promote regular fundraising activities, pursue grants and levies, and lobby government at all levels;
Recruit volunteers to assist paid staff in maintaining and expanding dynamic after-school and summer programs for children.
The school district has been investing close to $70,000 per year on its summer and after-school activities and tutoring programs.
Current funding comes through a $20,000 per year levy allocation, donations, fundraising activities, state funding, and a $30,000 grant from the J.C. Kellogg Foundation of New York.
White Salmon's schools have operated Project Open Door programs for the past five years, and have offered hundreds of kids with activities. An additional 50 or so have been provided with after-school tutoring in language, arts, and mathematics.
"Several hundred kids access the programs at some point during the school year," Prendergast said.
Victoria Hankin, a seventh-grade student at Henkle Middle School, is among those who has taken part in the after-school activities. Hankin said the program fills a void.
"It makes me feel so much better about myself after school, because it takes away the stress," Hankin said.
George said Project Open Door served 280 students in 2003-2004.
"This year so far, we're seeing an average of 35 students per day," George added.