HEF Launches Outreach to Find Ways to Collaborate with Like-Minded Leaders

The vice president of the Humboldt Education Foundation is the bank manager for the Prescott Valley Desert Financial credit union and a father of three sons attending the Granville Elementary School in the Humboldt Unified School District.

Jonathan Knight is passionate about all things education — and recognizes that the extras students and teachers need to succeed are not likely to all come from the annual school budget.

He is also aware that Humboldt Unified School District is far from alone in this picture. It’s why he joined the foundation and has embraced a leadership role. It’s also why he is credited by foundation President Aimee Fleming — a parent and former principal in the district — with launching an important outreach to 20 other county education foundations — small and large — to brainstorm how they can all flourish for the sake of the students and faculty their districts serve.

On Dec. 3, HEF hosted nine of those foundations at a gathering at the Jasper Club in Prescott Valley. The casual, yet informative gathering proved insightful for Fleming and Knight, as it was clear leaders of all these foundations share a similar vision though they each have different goals and agendas based on the particular needs of their own districts. One common thread they all share is the need to generate strong community and donor support to make it all happen — and that can sometimes prove a daunting task, they agreed.

At this event, Knight said he learned of some resources that could be “game changers” for HEF’s future endeavors. So the takeaway for him and Fleming was to host semi-annual conferences aimed at helping all foundations thrive through shared knowledge and collaboration.

As an inaugural event, Knight and Fleming weren’t sure what might occur, but were glad to have the chance to shake hands with fellow foundation leaders and learn about what Knight said were some of their “niches and pitfalls.”

“I’m a master of organizing,” said Knight with an infectious generosity of spirit that Fleming assures is his gift when it comes to bringing people together for a common purpose. He volunteered with some 24 different organizations last year.

With no real agenda for the first get-together, Desert Financial’s Volunteer of the Year in 2023 said his hope was to enable those with similar goals to get to know one another so they can then learn from one another and, eventually, share ideas and resources so as to benefit a similar constituency — children and their schools. He said he was gratified to connect a couple people who previously served together and through this event were able to “rekindle their connection.”

In time, Fleming said she hopes to see this initial outreach break down barriers between individual efforts so as to foster a true county “collaboration” where everyone is willing “to work for the same cause together.” Knight assured this is not aimed at “encroaching on anyone else” but finding where there might be room to support and encourage each other on funding some mutual projects.

Knight said he respects that many of these foundations have built loyalty and resources around the needs of their particular communities.

In the future, Knight and Fleming both hope leaders are willing to consider where it might make sense to coordinate efforts and where it makes sense to maintain “the uniqueness of each.”

For 26 years, the Yavapai County Education Foundation was the annual host of a countywide Teacher of the Year program. In 2020, the foundation halted its program due to both a global pandemic and a lack of resources to continue the annual festivities to honor county teachers. The foundation replaced that with a magazine to highlight educational “champions” in the area.

Some local foundations, including HEF, now do their own local version, or with some kind of twist. Several are active with teacher grant programs, and addressing food insecurity issues for students.

In the 2023-24 school year, HEF concluded a multi-year fundraising project, funneling $27,000 into the K-12 orchestra program started in 2018. Their donations included the purchase of 70 instruments.

HUSD Superintendent Christine Griffin praised the outreach by volunteers who she credited with their “heart” for making a difference for students and staff, be it enabling a science teacher to buy a resources for a lesson or to ensure students don’t go hungry when they are not in school.

PUSD Education Foundation Executive Director Paul Kirchgraber said he counts the event as a “first step.”

“I think the need for us to collaborate is there,” Kirchgraber said, noting there is nothing “proprietary” about sharing good business and board development practices. “I thought it was very beneficial, and thank Jonathan for putting it together.”

The bottom line: giving kids what they need to succeed.

“I like kids to be a forethought, not an afterthought,” Knight concluded.

Reach Nanci Hutson by email at [email protected] or call 928-445-3333 ext. 2041.

ARTICLE SOURCE: https://www.dcourier.com/news/2024/jan/18/humboldt-education-foundation-launches-outreach-fi/

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