Writer / Heather Chastain
Avon Community Schools is fortunate to have a non-profit organization devoted to supporting educational needs in all 12 of its schools. It’s called the Avon Education Foundation (AEF). Created by longtime public education supporter Pam DeWeese in 2007, this organization exists to support the creativity, innovation and excellence of Avon students.
After the failed referendum in 2011, the AEF became very important to the vitality of Avon Schools. Because of the AEF, several programs exist at Avon that would otherwise not be possible. Specifically, the orchestra for sixth grade students. Dean Westman made this program possible. Westman was paying for this program out of his own pocket to start. He then submitted a grant to the AEF, and they were able to give him more money than he requested to maintain the orchestra.
“Even though the orchestra program is still young, it’s highly respected,” says Sara Bender, AEF Executive Director.
The program began with 38 students and has grown to more than 700 orchestra students grades 6-12, taught by three full-time Orchestra Directors in five buildings. The Avon High School Orchestra is made up of 230 String Players placed in four orchestras. The High School Orchestras have performed at Walt Disney World, Chicago, New York City and will be taking a European Tour this June to perform in Rome, Florence and Salzburg Austria at the Mozarteum. The Avon High School Symphony Orchestra placed 3rd at the ISSMA State Orchestra Finals in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and was the State Runner-Up at the 2017 ISSMA State Orchestra Finals.
“Unprecedented growth and achievement for a program just starting our 11th year, and none of it would have happened without that initial support from the Avon Education Foundation,” Westman says. “And that support is why I joined the AEF Board and continue to serve to this day.”
Another program funded by AEF is the Evening of Excellence for the Top 25 seniors. The Evening of Excellence is a banquet celebrating seniors. Each senior can bring two teachers who helped them along the way. Typically, it’s a teacher from a younger grade and one from the high school level. AEF also funds the Freshman Orientation that allows the school to be open the evening before the first day to give parents and students an introduction to the school.
“The need for outside funding has never been greater. We want to make sure these programs don’t stop,” Bender says.
“However, when you know our schools have faced $56M in cuts, that amount is just a drop in the bucket,” she adds.
This year has been a banner year for AEF. This fall, AEF has been able to provide $55,000 in scholarships and grants with plans to award another $17,000 in the winter.
More than 20 percent of funding comes from individuals. If you want to help, you can attend and support a fundraising event like Monte Carlo night and make a donation through United Way’s “Donor’s Choice” option, purchase an Indiana Motor Vehicle Education License Plate with a portion designated to AEF, Honor an Educator, donate used musical instruments for re-use or support the performing arts programs with donations to the DeWeese Performing Arts Fund.
“No donation is too small for us,” Bender says.
You can donate either money, school supplies (to support their S.O.S. – Supply Our Schools) or in-kind donations. All donations are tax deductible.
“We have the best teachers, and this [AEF] is a resource that, as a community, we want to support as much as possible,” Bender says.
To learn more about the education foundation, visit avoneducationfoundation.org or find them on Facebook or Twitter.