Investing in educational innovation: the Verona Area Education Foundation celebrates 30 years of helping students in Verona | Community

The famous maxim says “it takes a village to raise a child”, but for a long-standing organization in Verona, it might be more appropriate to say that it took a city to raise children.

This year, the Verona Area Education Foundation (VAEF) celebrates 30 years of serving students in the community. A separate entity from the Verona Area School District, the organization is made up of parents, school board members, school district staff, local business representatives and there’s even a voting student position. .

“We are proud to have added one student board member as a voting participant – we have had four so far,” VAEF President Errin Welty told reporters. “We love helping them learn how Robert’s Boards and Rules of Procedure work, and they’re really helpful with the grants; they offer great insights into some truly valuable things that those of us who have been out of school for a while wouldn’t recognize. ”

So far, the four student members have been high school juniors and seniors.

Perhaps the organization’s two initiatives most visible to the wider community are the student artist banner contest and the annual craft sale fundraiser.

What is less known is that VAEF has distributed nearly 350 grants totaling more than $110,000 since the association was founded in 1992.

It provides up to $10,000 annually to educators in the Verona-area school district through its Innovative Education Grant Program.

The Innovative Education Grant program began in 2003 to help district teachers who wanted to test new technologies in schools get funding for their ideas. This technology includes graphing calculators, fidget toys, mindfulness tools, video cameras, electronic music wallets for students to store recordings, and COVID-19 remote and remote learning equipment.

Other VAEF grant-funded projects have included grassland restoration at Sugar Creek and Country View elementary schools and funding for a professional poet to be writer-in-residence at the college.

Educators submit project proposals that do not fit into their budgets.

In its first two decades, the program funded about 130 teacher applications, totaling between $75,000 and $80,000 disbursed, Welty said. All schools in the district have had projects funded by the program and more than 9,000 students benefit from the grant each year. Currently, approximately 10-20 grant applications are funded per year.

Welty has been the organization’s president for five years and currently has children in middle and high schools in Verona.

Welty works as the Downtown Development Program Manager at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation in Madison, managing the Main Street and Connect Communities programs.

She has always been interested in downtown community development, but said she felt that in Verona there was no way to get directly involved.

“I love working with students and teachers, as well as businesses and the community,” she said.

The banner program was founded by Welty and, every year for the past six years, has invited students to submit artwork around a theme. This year’s theme was “Verona: past, present, future” and encouraged historical or current representations of the city, or dreams for its future.

Artwork is selected to be transferred onto 20-inch by 40-inch banners that hang downtown. The competition is open to all students in the department.

There are around 60-80 artwork submissions each year, and VAEF has selected up to 34 to turn into banners in a single year.

This year, 22 banners have been selected, which will be accompanied by two banners of the Verona Region Historical Society in honor of the city’s 175th anniversary. This is the first time the historical society has been part of the banner project.

While student banners are replaced every two to four years on Main Street and Verona Avenue, old banners are transformed into zipper pouches, tote bags, lunch bags, aprons and phone wristbands, which are sold to raise funds.

The arts and crafts sale began in 1995 and takes place every fall, with several dozen vendors selling handmade goods, from watercolors and sculptural works to potholders and homemade brownies. It was originally started by a 13-year-old student partly to fund a trip to Australia and New Zealand, but also as a memorial fund for a deceased classmate. In 2001, VAEF took over the management of the annual event which now brings together more than 70 suppliers.

In addition to innovation grants, the nonprofit’s fundraising efforts have focused on purchasing and installing the college’s high-ropes course and supporting extracurricular activities in sports, recreation and fitness.

Students who cannot afford to participate in city recreation program sports or school district sports can apply for a VAEF scholarship.

The group also hosts Teacher Appreciation Week each year during the first week of May. Each year, approximately 130 teachers are recognized by students, parents and alumni with notes or cards.

A grant funded a field trip for a group of third and fourth graders to shop at Miller and Sons for baking supplies, who then worked with high school students in a culinary arts class to cook together.

On another occasion, students from Glacier Edge Elementary School traveled to the Once Upon A Time Childcare Center Preschool to create comic books with youngsters as part of a literacy project.

“I love scholarship projects that bring students together,” Welty said. “I love when kids connect through the ages.”

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