By Debbie Hiscott, Executive Director of Falls Church Education Foundation
As we reflect on the last two years and the path forward, we are so grateful for the community of Falls Church, the collaboration and support, and the resilience of the schools, teachers and staff. The last opportunity we had to share about the Falls Church Education Foundation (FCEF) and our mission in the Falls Church News Press, in spring 2020, we wrote about missing out on many City of Falls Church festivities due to this “new” thing called Covid. From prom to end-of-year school picnics to graduation – and even the Falls Church City Memorial Day parade – the pandemic put so many plans on hold and made our traditions look incredibly different. We know none of these events were more important than looking out for one another and keeping each other safe and healthy. That didn’t keep us from missing each of these traditions all the same. We are happy that, two years later, over 750+ celebrated the Recreation and Parks egg hunt this past weekend, and there are plans in place for an Arbor Day celebration on May 23rd and for the Memorial Day parade as well. Tucked in between those two dates is another annual tradition we are happy to revive—The Falls Church Education Foundation Gala!
The annual Falls Church Education Foundation Gala and Auction is another event on that growing list of things that Will happen this year, and it’s historically one of my favorites. It is appropriately themed “Together Again.” We hope you’ll join us in this celebratory event on Friday, May 20th at 6:30 p.m. at the Washington Golf & Country Club. Sure, it is a ton of work for us and an entire crew of volunteers. By the end of the event, the volunteers, our families and we are all exhausted. But seeing all those friends and neighbors, supportive business leaders, stalwart elected officials, incredible teachers and administrators all glammed up and turning out for a common cause again – to raise critical funds that support our schools, educators, and students – makes it all worthwhile. Every single year.
Each year, funds raised at the gala are the engine which drive FCEF’s support of our school community. The Foundation’s ongoing programs support equity of access (food, technology, school supplies, basic necessities and emergency shelter and medical care), ESOL and Special Education programs that ensure all of our students are given the best foundation from which to learn. Funding also supports our two main grant programs — our Advanced Training Grants for staff professional development opportunities and our Super Grants which expand and extend the learning environment for students and staff, PK-12.
Funds raised from this event also support our FCCPS staff recognition awards like the FCEF Teacher of the Year (congrats to Meridian High School’s math teacher extraordinaire, Jen Jayson, for being the 2022 recipient!). You can find photos of Ms. Jayson and other award winners in the FCCPS ad on page 13. And we admit it: we love handing out those checks to the hardest working teachers in the nation. After all they have done to keep things rolling over the past few years, it was fabulous to recognize them in person. The teachers who are nominated for the awards, and their dates, join us to be recognized at the annual gala.
FCEF also stewards over 22 scholarships for students, providing critical support for career development and post-secondary education. Scholarships recognize excellence on a variety of dimensions including citizenship, arts, community service, and academic achievement. As directed by donors, many scholarships focus on particular groups within the high school population including graduates from ESOL and Special Education programs, students planning to attend vocational school or community college, first generation college attendees, students who are immigrants or from immigrant families, and students who plan to focus on arts or education in college. This year we are very honored to have added a new scholarship in memory of our beloved friend and neighbor, Anna Hennessey, a 2015 GMHS graduate. The Anna Hennessey Scholarship for Service Learning is intended to recognize and reward a student who has demonstrated dedication to service to our greater community. Fortunately for the City of Falls Church, we have many candidates.
During the pandemic, we were proud to have not only continued our traditional programs, but also to have created new programs which leveraged generous community support to address specific pandemic-related needs. We expanded our Family Assistance Fund program, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in total to support local families, providing food security and many types of emergency assistance. We have secured over $50,000 in grants to support wellness programs for our staff, students and parents (please watch for a future article in the FCNP for additional photos and details of our March Wellness grants).
We know it is not really the fancy party and the dazzling outfits that make our gala and auction so special. It’s the sense of community and caring and acknowledgement that the hard work was worth it. Even in this crazy time, our friends, neighbors and businesses are coming together and doing what they can to keep our schools strong. And although it’s not just about the party, we do hope you will plan to join us on the dance floor on May 20th and contribute to the event that directly supports our teachers, our students and our community.
To learn more about the work of the Foundation and our events, please check out www.fcedf.org and follow us at @FCEFoundation on Twitter, Falls Church Education Foundation on Facebook and/or fcefoundation on Instagram.