The Education Foundation of the Mission Consolidated Independent School District has a goal to enhance and benefit the education and educational opportunities for both students and employees.
Recently, the EF held a Spazmatics concert at the Mission Event Center in order to fundraise and prepare for the upcoming school year. Through the non-profit organization, MCISD students and personnel are eligible for grants and scholarships.
Started in 2014 by MCISD Board of Trustees members Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez and Dr. Sonia Treviño, the organization tries to assist teachers and offset the extra costs of running a classroom or school and students who aim to further their education.
Because the organization is fairly new, the current directors and members of the foundation were approached and selected after an interview with the school board and superintendent. There are several people on the board for the EF including Treasurer Lori Lopez, Director Candy Martinez and Director Raquel Ramos, who all spoke highly of the non-profit.
“Our main focus is to raise money for the students, the teachers and the staff,” Ramos said. “They can apply for scholarships and mini-grants to offset the costs that may not be covered in their budget.”
The mini-grants cover expenses that are not part of the school’s budget, and teachers and faculty members who want to pursue a continued education or certification can also apply for scholarships.
“We also have paraprofessionals in the district who may be lacking those six or 12 hours because life happens and they’re not able to finish school,” Martinez said. “They serve the educational community, and they just need a little bit more to be teachers or certified educators, so we offer them scholarships as well.”
Every year the EF has given about $15,000 worth of scholarships to graduating seniors, and $10,000 for teacher scholarships. For grants they distribute between $5,000 and $10,000. The distribution of the funds is determined by an open application process.
“There’s a 30-day window for them to turn in the application [for grants],” Martinez said. “They’re usually at the beginning of the school year, and of course the scholarships are done in February so we can award them by May.”
A committee of some of the foundation members has a rubric where they grade applications and determine where the funds raised will go. No applicant names are seen by committee members, only numbers, to keep the grading unbiased.
“We try to have a fair system,” Martinez said. “We not only look at what their goal is, they tell us a little bit about themselves and how they service their school and their community. We go over any accolades they have received in their term or current position, and they do turn in two letters of recommendation as well.”
According to the women, some of the grants that have been applied for have been innovative and even involved students in the writing process.
“They’ve gotten the students involved in terms of writing the grants and seeing what the needs and attainable goals are,” Martinez said. “They will see results within the school year, such as the gardens that they wanted, or particular microscopes.”
Some of the grants sponsored physical education activities to raise awareness of the importance of being active in the elementary schools, and the swim teams from the three high schools collaborated and were able to get “state of the art training modules on the computers” that helped get the students in gear for their renovated pool.
The Spazmatics concert was able to generate more funds for the foundation, but there are still several events that they host in order to generate more awareness. The EF will be hosting their 4th annual Superintendent’s Golf Tournament in November.
Ramos said they want to give back to the Mission community in any way they can.
“We’re trying to give back,” Ramos said. “Any type of funding that we receive stays here, it’s local, it’s going back to our students and teachers, to our faculty and staff. It’s giving back to the kids who are going to be products of our school district.”
Martinez feels the foundation is necessary, as she has seen how difficult for school budgets to completely cover all costs that go into the learning environment.
“There’s so much out there, but there is limited time and money,” Martinez said. “You want the utopia classroom, and in order to get it, you’ve got to spend beaucoups of money, and not a lot of our teachers have it, and a lot of our districts, their budgets are limited.”
The three EF members said that the district does what they can to get additional grants, but the small individual projects students will always remember often cannot be fully covered, if at all.
“Through this foundation, we are able to make their utopia possible,” Martinez said.