Photo by Grace Goldman
Amidst the board members gathered in the home of East Fund president Robbin Reynolds last May, a new life was born.
The idea behind the school’s new Student Ambassadors program, which is bringing more student involvement into the East Fund, was first brought up and discussed at this meeting last year.
The success of student involvement with Parent Teacher Student Association was partly behind the inspiration for bringing the student perspective to the East Fund as well.
“They will truly spread the word about the East Fund and be the eyes on the ground, where maybe they’re in a class and the teacher will say, ‘Gosh I wish we had this’ and they can [offer to write up a proposal together,]” said East Fund board member Victoria Kanaley, who is one of the main figures reaching out to the Student Ambassadors.
Since its conception 13 years ago, the East Fund has distributed more than $750,000 dollars of funding through more than 125 grants. Anyone can submit a grant proposal: parents, teachers and students alike. But very few of all the grant requests submitted for consideration each year actually come from students.
However, impactful changes have come from these voices. Back in 2011, East alumnus Ellie Walker requested and received money for a portable sink and accessories for a special education classroom; previously, the class had to haul water in buckets and pitchers for activities and to clean up.
Then during the 2013-2014 school year, the Harbinger Online Assistant Editor John Foster requested grants to purchase broadcast equipment alongside the staff’s advisor Dow Tate. The East Fund board would like to see more grants coming from these student-teacher collaborations or simply from students.
Currently there are 16 students involved in the program, made up of four freshmen, six sophomores and six juniors, which Kanaley believes to be a good combination. As the pilot program will continue into next year, seniors were not considered for the group. For now, this pilot group is also largely made up of the children of current board members.
“We wanted to get it started, do a pilot, do it with people who were already committed and maybe somewhat aware of the East Fund,” Kanaley said. “But it’s by no means limited to them.”
The board would like the Student Ambassadors to spread the word about East Fund Grants and increase involvement of the general student body. They are expected to understand how the Fund and grants works, encourage more student-originated grant proposals and represent the East Fund before other organizations across the school.
“I think part of why we thought it was okay to start with the students of some of the current board members was that the current board was selected specifically to bring in a variety of interests and a cross section of the parent community,” Kanaley said. “So with their students, we have so many different areas of the school represented.”
The East Fund board is still considering the possible selection or application process that they would like to use in the future for recruitment.
“The students that are involved now will help with the design of this program, so it’s something that will be sustainable beyond just this year and the next,” Kanaley said.
Current Student Ambassadors have only met twice to learn about the program they are to become part of and the process of writing and approving grants. For the remainder of this year, they will have one meeting at two different times each month to continue their training in East Fund processes and leadership.
Beginning next year, the current Student Ambassadors will be able to choose an area of interest – for example, the grants committee or social media that they would like to bring their unique voice to.
“I feel like it’s just a cool opportunity,” said sophomore Laini Reynolds, whose mother is president of the East Fund board. “It will be really interesting to hear about the process of how grants are approved and what kind of grants that we’ll be getting.