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WESTTOWN — Now celebrating its sixth year in existence, the West Chester Area Education Foundation (WCAEF) has made a positive impact on the school district and its students, highlighted during the annual breakfast.
This year’s breakfast was held Friday morning in the cafeteria at West Chester Rustin High School and several community members were in attendance, including school board members, Mayor Carolyn Comitta and state Rep. Duane Milne.
“We know that our graduates are eventually going to be the business leaders and the parents of the future of this community,” said Superintendent Jim Scanlon. “We want to make sure we are preparing them for that.”
The WCAEF was founded in 2010 to make sure the schools in the district retained its reputation as a top district by providing additional resources for the students.
“It started as an idea … where we brought business leaders in this community together and we asked a simple question about what we can do to better prepare our students for the world of work,” Scanlon said. “We knew that many of our students — about 75 percent of them — graduate and go on to college or work. Even if they go away to school, we find a lot of them come back and live and work in the area in the West Chester community.”
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In those few years, the foundation grew into an independent nonprofit with 19 board members made up of business leaders, community leaders and education leaders.
The mission of the WCAEF is to “supplement creative, meaningful, real-world experiences for students in the West Chester Area School District,” which is exactly what it has been doing.
“(The WCAEF) has sponsored service projects with assisted living, we just recently had voices from the Holocaust here at Rustin, we had a MediaFest last Friday where about 300 people showed up and many STEM projects,” Scanlon said. “Many of the things you see — the 3D printer and the wind turbine project – they were sponsored by the foundation.”
The foundation funds these projects through mini grants.
Over the past four school years, the WCAEF has approved $70,000 in mini grants to give to teachers for programs and projects.
“We have raised and awarded over $200,000 for programs,” Scanlon said. “There are so many people to thank and be grateful for in this wonderful community of West Chester.”
In addition, the foundation also sponsors juniors and seniors to attend the Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week held in the summer.
“Students get to spend a week in the summer and work with business leaders from around the state and with other students,” Scanlon said. “They get to run a business, do a marketing presentation, a stock holder presentation and then, if they complete (it), all those kids automatically qualify for a $20,000 scholarship.”
Last year, the WCAEF sent over 100 West Chester students to the program.
As part of the annual breakfast, Mike Neilon, planning editor at 6ABC Action News, was the keynote speaker.
“We thank all of (the board members) for all the work they do and the money that they provide for the wonderful programs for our students,” Scanlon said. “This year, they provided more than $33,000 in mini-grants to our schools and teachers and some $40,000 to $50,000 in Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week internships that take place.”