The Foundation for Saline Area Schools “tipped off” its annual fundraising efforts with an event that raised more than $30,000 in support of educational initiatives in the school district.
Channon Washington, an educator and mother to children who attend Saline schools, was the keynote speaker. Washington, who attended Detroit Public Schools, spoke about the importance of teachers and programs that inspire students. She said her teachers in Detroit didn’t have many resources, so they had to bring lessons to life with teaching practices.
Washington had the guests turn to the people at their tables and say the name of a teacher who touched their lives.
A small commotion arose in the Liberty School gymnasium, site of the event. Washington wasn't surprised. Her own teachers inspired her to not only attend school, but pursue a career in education.
“My teachers were my world. There were a couple of years in my life when home wasn’t a lot of fun. It was my teachers who got me up and on to a city bus in Detroit and to school every day. It was my dance teacher, my arts, that were really propelling me to school,” Washington said. “Those teachers pointed me toward education and they’re the reason I spent almost 16 years going to high school (to teach) every day.”
Washington said when she and her husband chose a school district for their family, they knew what they were getting in Saline.
“I knew that for Saline to produce the way it producing, that there was a really well-supported army of teachers somewhere, working - plotting and scheming - to trick kids into learning,” Washington said.
She said she saw in Saline what her mother always looked for in programs for her daughter.
“She was always looking for that ‘thing,’ that ‘something special,’ that ‘je ne sais quoi’ program, or something unique,” Washington said.
And that’s what the Foundation for Saline Area Schools supports, Washington said.
“The foundation supports that thing my mother was always looking for. That thing that will set this district apart and gives kids unique opportunities,” Washington said.
Washington urged the people in the audience to support those programs that inspire kids to learn.
The donors were also told about several of the programs.
Emily Petrous, a teacher and speech pathologist at Woodland Meadows Elementary, spoke about how a foundation-funded program impacted students and teachers. The Red Glasses Movement was inspired by Audrey Jandernoa, a young child with Down Syndrome and a congenital heart defect. Jandernoa, who wore bright red glasses, was known for her contagious smile and lack of inhibition. A foundation grant brought the Red Glasses Movement to Woodland Meadows Elementary.
“It allowed every student and staff member to see the world through someone else’s eyes and encouraged people to share kindness and spread love. It inspired people to find their purpose and overcome challenges to pursue their goals, no matter how big or small,” Petrous said.
Students from Woodland Meadows then distributed pairs of the red glasses to those in attendance.
Teacher Bekah Lantis spoke about the ways the foundation’s support for the media centers has benefited students. Lantis worked with teachers Mary Ledford, Cindy Clark and Kathy Meyer to improve media centers at Woodland Meadows, Pleasant Ridge and Heritage schools with books designed to help students with growth mindset, digital citizenship, global citizenship and creativity.
Nishan Bhattacharyya and Noah Walters spoke about a student-led grant awarded by the foundation. The grant helped fund an elementary robotics program that Bhattacharyya and Walters created for third graders at Harvest Elementary School. 25 elementary students worked together to build various robotics kits, which taught students principles of engineering, team work, leadership and programming.
Over the last 30 years, the foundation has supported Saline Area Schools with more than $1.3 million in grants.
The next major event will be held Feb. 29, when the foundation hosts Snowblast at Travis Pointe Country Club.