May 20, 2010 - $175,000 raised to help students get ready for life

More than 250 community and staff members gathered at Jasper Place High School on May 20 for one purpose — to help young children get ready for learning, ready for growing and ready for life. Recently established, the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation held its first-ever fundraising breakfast, raising more than $175,000.

Like Cinderella’s carriage, the school’s gym was transformed into a hall bursting at the doors with energy and hope. Director Sandra Woitas explained to guests that “the more we enrich the learning experience for young students, the more likely students will achieve success in school and in the working world.” While guests enjoyed choir performances and success stories from an elementary and high school student, they learned about the importance of early learning intervention. By the time children turn six, 75 per cent of their brain growth has already occurred. In an ideal world, all children will learn the skills and attitudes they need for life. In reality, hundreds of children live in vulnerable circumstances without opportunities for healthy growth, challenging their future success. For many students, the achievement gap begins before they enter Kindergarten.

For those reasons, Woitas announced all funds raised at the breakfast will support early learning and full-day Kindergarten programs for Edmonton Public Schools’ most socially vulnerable citizens — those who represent Edmonton’s diverse student population and are at risk academically. An inspirational video showed how local, on-going research conducted by the University of Alberta proves the benefits of early learning programs. As early as age three, children develop the foundation for communication and social skills, positive attitudes, literacy, numeracy and physical health. The programs also help them develop positive behaviours, including independence, interaction and innovation. Most importantly, guests saw how it takes an entire community to help students blossom.

For RBC, providing contributions with lasting social impacts is a priority. Recognizing the importance of early learning intervention, it gifted the Foundation $50,000, causing guests to shake their noisemakers and spray confetti. “At RBC, we believe that by investing in youth and education we are helping to create stronger communities,” says Jeff Battershill, RBC Vice President Commercial Markets. “We are excited to be able to support the Edmonton School Board Foundation, and to help kids get off to the right start.”

According to Woitas, a more important investment doesn’t exist. “Today, I’m more hopeful than I’ve ever been,” said Woitas. “Since we launched this Foundation, I’ve talked to all kinds of people, from community leaders to parents, who want to get involved. I’ve talked to people who want to help students get a hand up, not a handout, in life. I’ve talked to people who recognize that public education has a profound impact on youth.” The breakfast really showed how Edmontonians can help transform today’s children into tomorrow’s leaders.

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