Wes Lukoshus

Wes Lukoshus

Seventh- and eighth-graders developing research and team building skills using basic programming and coding to solve science curricula problems.

Youngsters who lack such basic clothing needs as underwear and socks are able to learn in comfort during the bone-chilling days of winter, thanks to a “Catch the B.U.S.S.” campaign.

High school football team members are engaging in an off-season study of character development through acquisition and discussion of copies of a book written by former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy.

These are a just a few of the valuable, learning-enriched experiences made possible for School City of Hammond students because of support and grants provided by the Hammond Education Foundation.

Similarly innovative learning opportunities are being made possible in numerous other public school systems across Northwest Indiana as a result of support provided by community education foundations.

Education foundations are nonprofit organizations that provide resources for innovative learning experiences that exceed the limitations of school budgets. Driving efforts of the Hammond Education Foundation in its support of Northwest Indiana’s largest school corporation is a mission to advance extraordinary learning opportunities that help Hammond students succeed — during and beyond their K-12 years.

Though The Times of Northwest Indiana publishes a fair share of news about how local education foundations help their schools, students and teachers, I suspect overall understanding of the workings of education foundations is by and large lacking.

In many ways, what education foundations do might not be considered exciting or sexy, so to speak. But with limited school district funding having become a hot button issue, the efforts and contributions of education foundations arguably never have been more important.

As one who worked in higher education for more than three decades, I am familiar with the value that advancement/development offices possess in raising dollars for the betterment of college/university campuses and their students. K-12 public school systems, however, are void of such offices.

Even proud alumni with the best of intentions might have a challenging time making a direct gift to their high school alma mater to advance, say, improved STEM learning.

So an education foundation plays the role of catalyst in soliciting, accepting and then distributing resources to public school systems in ways that benefit students.

Some education foundations, such as Hammond, have organized an alumni subsidiary arm that facilitates high school Success Days, encourages how class reunion committees can give back to their school and holds various fundraising social events.

There also are those education foundation alumni groups that encourage residents, church members and businesses to “Catch the B.U.S.S.” by donating books, underwear, socks and shirts for distribution to needy students.

The Hammond Education Foundation also has provided grants for teachers to train parents how to help their elementary students at home to bolster reading skills.

Another HEF gift is supporting a senior high school class — called Blueprint — offered at all four Hammond high schools that teaches prospective college students how to navigate through the often challenging admission and scholarship/financial aid application process.

Are you proud and pleased with the public K-12 education you received? Eager for your children or grandchildren to benefit from valuable learning experiences? Looking for a way to invest in those young people who will play key roles in the future of our society?

Get involved with the education foundation in your community. Most of our region’s local school systems can tell you how to do so.

Wes Lukoshus is a Region resident and former assistant vice chancellor of media relations and communications at Purdue University Northwest. The opinions are the writer's.