In this age of budget cuts and dwindling funding, schools everywhere have had to get creative in order to raise money to fund certain programs. What is special about Carmel is that parents step up and take the lead time and time again, and the community responds. We have two such examples this month: The Carmel Education Foundation Showcase and Taste of Carmel.
Take first, the 10th annual Taste of Carmel which is a fund raiser for Orchard Park Elementary School. Orchard Park is a unique school in every way. It’s like a mini United Nations with as many as 28 languages represented – a diversity like no other school. Languages range from many different Indian and Asian dialects to French Creole to Arabic. Orchard Park is different from most other Carmel schools in another way, too: as many as 40% of the school’s students are on free or reduced lunch programs. That’s more than twice the number of children in need than in any other Carmel Clay School and means that there’s not a lot of money for extras. In fact, teachers often use their own money to pay for classroom items.
Principal Rhonda Turner has taught in many schools and says nowhere has she seen the teacher dedication that she sees at Orchard Park. Whether it is the free after-school tutoring they provide or even showing up at events after school to support their students, she says Orchard Park teachers really care. In fact, many teachers do not live in the district but still have their own kids attend Orchard Park. She is among them. “I think what is special about Orchard Park is that we just really embrace everybody as an individual whatever culture you’re from, whatever need you may have, whether it’s a reading need or you may need to be enriched because you read so well. We just meet every kid at whatever level their need is. We embrace any differences that we have and make sure everyone reaches their own individual potential,” says Principal Turner.
Taste of Carmel came about 10 years ago to fill the gap between the things the school needs, or that might enrich the learning experience, and the money to buy those things. It has been very successful over the years but has seen a resurgence recently with 800 people in attendance in 2012. Last year’s event helped fund an all-weather walking track at the school – which is also open to the community to use – among other things.
Taste Of Carmel Co-Chairperson and PTO President Jennifer Penix is involved because she genuinely loves the school and says that her kids have learned far more from it than what is reflected on a report card. She says Orchard Park is special because of the people who work there. “I have never been in such an environment where there is always a ‘can-do’ attitude. No one ever gives up on a student; instead, teams work together to make the educational process personal and meaningful. Our staff believes in the students, often when they don’t even believe in themselves. What we lack in some of the physical stuff (funds, equipment, etc. ) is made up with positive attitude and passion.”
Taste of Carmel has become a must-attend event aside from the fact that it is a fund raiser. There will be 40 restaurants, 4 breweries, 4 wineries, a photo booth, caricature artist, music, raffle, and a silent auction with some great items including art created by the school’s students. It’s at the Ritz Charles on March 7 from 6-9 p.m., and the all-inclusive tickets are just $25 in advance. You can purchase them at http://tasteofcarmel2013.eventbrite.com. Go and have a wonderful time! The fact that by attending you are helping a great school in our community give students an extra leg up is just a side benefit to a fun evening.
Another example of parents spearheading fund raising for Carmel schools is the Carmel Education Foundation Showcase and Telethon. We’ll let the co-executive directors, Barbara Danquist and Stephanie McDonald, tell you more.
For over 20 years, the Carmel Education Foundation (CEF) Showcase and Telethon have been raising funds to give grants to the CCS teachers to enhance the learning of the 15,000 Carmel Clay students.
The CEF Showcase has been a district-wide culmination of the talents brewing within our schools and a great fund-raising effort for our music departments. We are delighted and grateful that we can provide a stage for some 800 Carmel Clay Schools students to shine and for our community to enjoy.
Again this year, our Showcase was a smash success, and we are excited to share those performances with our community. Please join us on March 12, 13, and 14 as we present the 2013 CEF Showcase in conjunction with our annual Telethon event on CHTV and Bright House Cable channel 99.
The CEF telethon is a long-standing fund-raising opportunity for our community to give back to our educators. While presenting the Showcase in March, volunteers will be reaching out to the community asking for support of Carmel’s public school teachers.
As co-directors of CEF and past teachers, both Stephanie and I are passionate about education, children, teachers, and the Carmel community. Leading this foundation and providing resources to our schools is our primary goal, while also inspiring our community to contribute to the successes of students and teachers.
Our hope is that the Carmel community embraces the Showcase as an example of the wonderful accomplishments occurring every day in our schools and uses the Telethon as a means to thank our educators and support our students. Please join us!
Barbara Danquist and Stephanie McDonald
Co-Executive Directors for Carmel Education Foundation