With the help of parents, community representatives, school district staff and alumni, the Mercer Island Schools Foundation raised $500,105 at their annual Breakfast of Champions fundraiser held at Mercer Island High School on April 24.
The fundraiser is held every year to raise money to augment the funding the district already receives. Mercer Island Schools Foundation Executive Director Penny Yantis said donations to the foundation help provide the textbooks for classrooms, enrichment grants, electives and advanced courses at the high school, programs for students who learn differently and professional development for teachers.
The funding, she said, helps the school district go beyond the basic education that the McCleary decision has helped fund.
“Our community, a long time ago, determined that basic education for our kids on Mercer Island wasn’t enough … these funds have funded teachers and classrooms and kept their class sizes low,” Yantis said. “We provide leverage for the school district to utilize all of the budget that they have and make every dollar work to its fullest … whatever they believe is the right thing for kids to advance them in the 21st century. The community becomes the leverage with their investment to boost the whole system to a higher level.”
The fundraiser highlighted education programs in the district from kindergarten to high school. Island Park Elementary Teacher Mary Mullen highlighted the coding programs young children in the district are working with, and the Mercer Island High School Robotics team brought their award-winning robot to the stage to demonstrate some of its capabilities.
Mercer Island High School Senior Sarah Crumrine received a $1,500 scholarship from the schools foundation for an essay that shares the impact of community-supported funding on the students.
The schools foundation also partnered with the district for a third year to present the four Pathfinder Award winners selected for 2018. The Pathfinder Award recognizes Mercer Island High School alumni whose achievements inspire students.
The four award recipients were co-founder of the Multicultural Education Rights Alliance Dawn Bennett, former Mercer Island teacher and President of of the Mercer Island Education Association Mary Lindquist, SanMar Corporation CEO Marty Lott and comedian and actor Joel McHale.
Each of the award recipients spoke to the audience, thanking them for the recognition and talking about their time in the Mercer Island school system. McHale was unable to attend the breakfast, but made a video call to organizers who projected his video onto the stage’s screens.
“I really don’t deserve this award because I’ve spent most of my career trying to come up with a good Kim Kardashian joke and everyone else who has received this award has helped humanity whereas I am just trying to find great hair products and good fitting sweaters,” McHale joked. “It really was a wonderful place to grow up for a kid and his friends who wanted to do plays and be actors, in most places we would have been run out, but Mercer Island made it a great place to screw up and try to learn.”
The breakfast is only one of several fundraising events for the Mercer Island Schools Foundation, Yantis said. The foundation also plans to hold four pancake breakfasts at various schools in the district as well as mail campaigns for the parents in the district.