NEWARK – The Worcester County Education Foundation (WCEF) donated $35,000 to the local school system this week to aid in its ongoing digital conversion.
The WCEF, a nonprofit created in 2014, provided the school system with $35,000 to pay for laptop cases and other technological necessities in the coming school year. The donation was part of the foundation’s ongoing effort to support the Worcester County Board of Education as it works to prepare students for the future.
“We want to help Worcester County be the most successful school system it can be,” said Todd Ferrante, chairman of the organization.
The education foundation was launched by a group of local business owners and community leaders in 2014 to help the school system with its digital conversion, the move to provide every student with a digital device. At the time, the foundation set a goal of raising $5 million — roughly the amount it would take to provide each of the school system’s 6,700 students with a digital device.
“We want to compete in today’s world,” Ferrante said. “Today’s world is using technology.”
Though the school system has been able to purchase computers for many of its students already, the digital conversion is ongoing. Last year, the school system provided all of its freshmen with laptops they will use for all four years of high school. This fall, the practice will be repeated, meaning half of the county’s high schoolers will have their own computers.
To protect those computers, the education foundation has used some of the $510,000 it’s raised so far to fund laptop cases for high school students. Roughly $10,000 of this week’s donation will go toward that cause while the rest can be used on whatever education officials deem necessary.
Lou Taylor, the school system’s chief operating officer and WCEF Board member, said the education foundation was devoted to helping students throughout the county — in the north end and south end — have access to technology.
“They’ve embraced the mission of our school system and tirelessly worked to get us supplemental funds to allow us to expedite the digital conversion process,” he said.
Ferrante says the foundation is focused on providing local students with the tools and technology they need to be prepared for college and the world beyond. In addition to the donations made to the school system so far, the organization has also started offering grants to individual teachers based on innovative learning projects they’ve shared. The WCEF also has plans to create an endowment fund at some point to provide for the future needs of local students.
Ferrante says foundation members are pleased with the progress so far and hope that the community will continue to show its financial support of the endeavor.
“We’re happy with where we are but we hope we continue to have people step forward,” he said.
He added that there were several options for giving, including basic donations, paycheck deductions and multi-year gifts. Ferrante said several of the substantial donations made by community groups were staggered, so that an organization that gave $50,000 for example was actually giving $10,000 a year for five years.
“Being a 501(c)(3) enables us to do a lot of things,” Ferrante said.
For more information visit the group’s website at www.wced.foundation.