Education is one of the most important tools that we have to shape youth. However, finding the money to keep student activities thriving is not always an easy task. It can be challenging to raise funds for education in urban public school districts. The Lansing Educational Advancement Foundation (LEAF) is combatting this issue locally by working to raise funds for the Lansing School District.
“Schools cannot just go out and raise money. They rely on the government and different foundations to support them,” said Anne Goudie, a member of LEAF’s board of trustees.
Established in 1984, the foundation was created to aid the school district by funding both long- and short-term projects that they otherwise would not be able to financially handle. The nonprofit’s board of trustees is made up of school district officials and community members. The team works hand-in-hand with the school district to ensure that all of the needs are being met.
“We are pretty in tune with the school district. It’s a two operative effort,” said Goudie.
LEAF is currently partnering with the district to carry out a three-year reading initiative to continue the literary involvement of students in kindergarten through third grade during the summer. Students participating in the program receive books and journals to complete throughout the summer. This is to ensure that the fundamental skills that they have learned during the school year will not only be remembered, but may be advanced during the summer months.
Grants are awarded annually to deserving teachers working in the district to help them improve their classrooms and provide an exemplary educational experience unhindered by funds. LEAF also highlights students who exhibit academic excellence by awarding them with scholarships. These scholarships are given to graduating seniors to help them continue their education after high school.
The support of LEAF occasionally travels outside of the district; this year the organization is supporting the Otsu Exchange Program, which sends students in the Lansing School District to Otsu, Japan; Lansing’s sister city. Experiences like this allow students to learn about a different culture and help them to understand the importance of diversity.
LEAF doesn’t have employees; it relies solely on volunteers, annual fundraisers like LEAFWORKS and endowed funds as the primary sources of income. LEAF strives to raise $65,000 to $75,000 a year for Lansing schools and its students.
“The goal is to maintain as much as we can and also to continue to provide low income urban students who face additional challenges with the appropriate curriculum,” said Goudie.
As long as they are able to, LEAF will continue to provide the Lansing School District with a way to enrich students’ lives and provide young men and women with the opportunity for success.