No better investment can be made in the “right now” than one that includes thoughtful consideration of the future. Since its founding in 1992, the Peoria Public Schools Foundation has been a private, nonprofit, single-purpose organization dedicated to raising the resources necessary to do those things that help maximize the considerable time and money invested in our public school budgets. Governed by a private board in symbiotic cooperation with the Peoria Public Schools, the Foundation is making investments every day that enhance the educational experience of our students now and in the future.
In order to make these investments, we rely on the support of community leaders, whose gifts to the PPS Foundation achieve real-world outcomes. Consider the Horizons Club career mentoring program, which engages hundreds of students each year with guest speakers from a variety of professions who come into their classrooms and share career exploration opportunities. We supply food through our “Little Free Pantries” to the considerable number of students living with food insecurity, with no knowledge of where their next meal might come from.
Students receive clothes, coats and shoes when in need. Teachers are provided technology or other innovations outside of their reach through our grants. Supportive leaders truly make all the difference for our students—and give them the hope for their future.
Adapting to Challenges
The Gilmore Foundation, established by the late Bob Gilmore, is leading the way in supporting Peoria Public School students through the PPS Foundation. This past fall, it earmarked an impactful gift to support the district’s COVID-19 response. This gift of $50,000 was an investment to alleviate the pressures faced by students and their families, many of whom have technology challenges, who were forced to take on at-home learning.
The investment by the Gilmore Foundation is helping our schools adapt to pandemic challenges now and in the future. Like many other family foundations that have recently reached out to us, the Gilmore Foundation was looking for an organization in the community that had a strong pulse on the needs of Peoria Public Schools. We are grateful to be the bridge to the students for these leaders.
Olivia Streeter is a young leader who has helped prove the value of investments made through the PPS Foundation. Olivia was a bright-eyed little kindergarten student at Hines School when I first met her many years ago. In middle school, she was one of our original Horizon Club students, listening to presentations from professionals in the community who spoke at her school. Judge Alicia Washington was an attorney in private practice at the time and was one of those speakers.
As a middle school child, Olivia shared that she was greatly impacted by Judge Washington’s presentation. These experiences helped her think about her future and the goals she wanted to achieve in life. Today, Olivia is a student at Illinois State University studying communication and interning at WCBU radio. Like so many other PPS students, her future was forever enhanced by the community investment of time and talent through the PPS Foundation.
A Personal Investment
Another example of significant community leadership can be found right here in Peoria Public Schools. Dr. Sharon Kherat leads by example when it comes to making a personal investment in our children. As district superintendent, her most impressive trait is her tireless belief in her teachers and students—that they have the power to reach their fullest potential.
Every year for the past five years, it has been a pleasure to serve as Dr. Kherat’s driver for a special trip we take to visit each of the 27 schools in the district in a single day. At each stop, she sees students, teachers, secretaries, custodians and principals and cheers them on, asking what they need at the beginning of the school year. Dr. Kherat will get down on her knees to talk to the youngest students and tell them she believes in them. During this challenging school year, we made the visits twice. This investment of time sets the tone for the year, setting the students up for success and a belief in themselves.
You and your family, however, are perhaps the most important leaders. Hundreds of you each year take out your checkbooks and contribute to the PPS Foundation’s “Right Now” fund or support our annual “365” breakfast event. Your gifts certainly make a tremendous impact today. And while you may never get to meet each and every Olivia, believe me, your investment has a huge impact on the future.
Whether it’s a little extra help, a warm coat on a cold day, technology to help teachers connect, or support to facilitate another Horizons speaker, you are making this happen. With your investment, the future is now. PM
To donate or to learn more about the Peoria Public Schools Foundation, visit ppsfoundation.org.