As the Shelter Island Educational Foundation looks ahead to its Sunday, November 16 Grant Awards Celebration at Sylvester Manor, board members are reflecting on the almost $1 million raised through the years for Island students.
The grants committee looks to fund “unusual and unique opportunities,” board member Kristina Lange said. “We really encourage students to dream big because there’s a whole world beyond Shelter Island to be explored,” she added.
In an ideal world, school budgets would be able to support some of the programs and activities that are funded by the Educational Foundation, Board President Christine Gallagher said.
But that’s not practical in today’s economy so the Foundation — celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2015 — has always stepped into the breach, dedicated to finding the money to support Island young people and programs that would otherwise be beyond reach.
Dr. Lydia Axelrod was school superintendent and the initial inspiration for the Educational Foundation back in 1995. It was formed with an initial focus on providing a support system for families to educate their children about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.
But a group of dedicated volunteers moved on with a more expansive mission to encourage educational enrichment programs, helping children “chart a productive course from their own abundant shores to the boundless world of knowledge and understanding,” Ms. Gallagher said.
The present mission statement commits the group to “pursue, create and provide excellent educational opportunities that enhance, inspire and broaden the horizons of our children and the community.”
A generous group of individuals and businesses on the Island have steadfastly supported the program with contributions enabling the organization to raise $822,000 through the years, Ms. Lange said. In the last fiscal year alone, the Foundation distributed $65,883 in grants.
Projects/grants have included:
• Helping a girl who wanted to study music in Cuba;
• Supporting a youth’s enthusiasm for Space Camp in Alabama;
• Enabling a student to travel to Cambodia to participate in Student Shoulder-to-Shoulder, a program encouraging global citizenship and international service;
• Supporting a volleyball player whose dream was to participate on an international team in Australia; and
• Providing a student with an opportunity to explore the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Program grants have provided students with day trips to New York City to see Broadway productions of “Once,” “The Nutcracker” and “La Boheme.”
The Foundation also provides for:
• The 2Rs4Fun writing program for elementary school students;
• A week-long sailing trip aboard the schooner Alabama where students learn the ropes of manning the boat;
• Participation for students in the Shelter Island Sailing Club;
• A seventh grade program at Stony Brook University for the Young American Writers Project; and
• Sponsorship of the East End Maritime Institute Peconic Bay Summer Science Program.
Grants of up to $2,000 are awarded twice a year — once in late fall and the second round in the spring.
No contribution is too big or too small, Ms. Gallagher said, noting that the community has been very generous in its support of the Foundation. Tax-deductible contributions can be made through the website at shelterislandedfoundation.org.
This is the third year that Sylvester Manor has opened its doors to host the Grant Awards Celebration at which recipients of past awards will share their experiences with the audience.
“I was sitting there with tears in my eyes,” Ms. Lange recalled as she listened to recipients talk about the experiences that Shelter Island Educational Fund grants had helped happen.
The event this year is at 4 p.m. on Sunday, November 16 at Sylvester Manor.