Greenwich Alliance Reflects on its 10th Anniversary

group shot at Alliance grants receptionIt all started around a dining room table ten years ago. Concerned about the persistent achievement gap in the Greenwich Public Schools, a group of town parents and leaders approached then-Greenwich Schools’ Superintendent Larry Leverett, with the desire to effect change.

Mr. Leverett suggested the idea of a local education foundation. He saw that other municipalities had education foundations which were funded by the community and provided additional programs and benefits to students. “Why did we bother? We were troubled that large numbers of public school students in our socioeconomically diverse town did not have access to programs and services they needed to be successful in school,” said Nancy Kail, whose dining room table served as the organization’s first conference table. Kail would go on to serve as the first chair of the Greenwich Alliance for Education, now celebrating its tenth anniversary.

The Achievement Gap
One of the driving forces behind the group’s desire for an effective local education foundation was their observation that although Greenwich’s public school students were impressive by many measures, there was also a disturbing achievement gap. They saw that some students consistently fell behind their peers, and furthermore, that some parents could not support their children in areas that were crucial towards a successful future.

In addition to Nancy Kail, the group included Laura Geffs, Eve Barron, Chuck Downey, Kim Eves, Janice Riddell, Hilary Stark and Joanne Zammit.

For a year they met at Kail’s dining room table, to establish a mission, decide on initial programs, and begin fundraising. In 2006 the Greenwich Alliance for Education was registered as a nonprofit and began its first three programs. These were, and continue to be, their three flagship programs: Going Places With Books, Tuning In to Music, and Reaching Out Grants.

The Founders’ Fund
In honor of its founding members and to celebrate ten successful years of providing opportunities to Greenwich Public School students, the Greenwich Alliance for Education is establishing “The Founders’ Fund”, a unique fund which will support students who have benefited from Alliance programs in high school and who are now in college. “The Alliance’s programs serve Greenwich students from preschoolers to high school students,” said Jane Hentemann, Chair of the Greenwich Alliance. “And we’ve learned that the need for support doesn’t suddenly stop at kindergarten, or high school, or high school graduation. We now have graduates of the [Greenwich Alliance-initiated] AVID program who are in college and who have scholarships but who still struggle with expenses and tuition,” Hentemann said. “Many Greenwich students are fortunate to come from families that can provide these things; we want to help all our students have this.”

Hentemann’s sentiments echo those which motivated Leverett and the original founders of the Alliance ten years ago. She said the Founders’ Fund will be part of the College Assistance Program (CAP), which provides scholarships to college students who have gone through the AVID program at Greenwich High School.

Julie Faryniarz, Executive Director of the Greenwich Alliance said that the Founders’ Fund as a tribute to the vision, determination, and hard work [the founders] had when they created the Alliance. They made so much possible for Greenwich children.” She points out that the programs which began ten years ago are still going strong. Going Places With Books brings early literacy enrichment to 300 preschoolers twice a month; Tuning In to Music provides free instrument lessons to 70 GPS students each year; and Reaching Out Grants has awarded over $800,000 to date for programs including AVID and GHS Innovation Lab.

The Greenwich Alliance for Education is funded solely by individual and corporate donations and fundraising. It receives no money from the town. Those interested in donating to The Founders’ Fund are invited to learn more from the website, or by contacting Executive Director Julie Faryniarz at [email protected]

The founders of Greenwich Alliance:

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 9.03.12 PMEve Barron – It is even clearer now than it was 10 years ago how vitally important it is to develop and fund effective ways to assure that the youngest and most vulnerable members of our community have the experiences and encouragement they need to succeed in school and beyond. All of us need to contribute to that effort and all of us will benefit from its success. That was my belief when I worked to create the Alliance and focused my efforts on very young children, many of whom lack the advantages often associated with a Greenwich childhood. Congratulations to the Greenwich Alliance — you have accomplished much and deserve our support for the work ahead.

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 9.03.17 PMChuck Downey – I was thrilled to help with the legal work associated with the founding of the Alliance because of its ambitious goals. It quickly became clear to me that the Alliance was not going to settle to be a fundraising vehicle to support mere school-by-school donations. Instead, the founders sought to tackle the achievement gap in our schools via innovative fundraising, programs, and grants. This bold vision was and remains inspirational, and reflects the wonderful character and commitment of our community. Through support for Tuning In To Music, the early literacy program, grants for AVID, and other programs, the Alliance has been a powerful force for good in Greenwich.

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 9.03.24 PMKim Eves – For ten years, the Greenwich Alliance for Education has remained steadfastly committed to providing opportunities to support the educational success of Greenwich’s public school students. When we began the Alliance, we recognized that not all students in Greenwich come to school with the same advantages. Our aim was to mobilize the resources in our community, and work in partnership with the Greenwich Public Schools , to remove barriers and optimize access to opportunities that lead to a successful education for all students. Today, thanks to the generous support of so many in Greenwich and beyond, there are students who are engaged with reading before Kindergarten, pursuing the joy of playing music, engaged in innovative project-based learning, accessing the internet at home, and/or attending college who otherwise may not have had those opportunities. I am so very proud to have been a small part of this organization and to have worked with the brilliantly dedicated and caring volunteers that have built The Alliance. Bravo!

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 9.03.33 PMLaura Geffs – “Why can’t every child in our community succeed?” I wondered. Ten years ago Nancy Kail answered, “They can, if given the opportunity.” That was the start of the Greenwich Alliance: to supply the tools for every student to flourish. I am honored to have been involved with an organization that enables engaged teachers and mentors to give students a big step up on the ladder to personal success.

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 9.03.40 PMNancy Kail – Crazy! It’s been over 10 years since a group of us sat brainstorming mission, vision, goals, programs, organization, governance — all the ingredients necessary to assemble the town’s first community-wide vehicle to support our public school students. Why did we bother? We were troubled that large numbers of public school students did not have access to the programs and services they needed to be successful in school. We developed programs and gave industrious educators grants to pilot solutions. We worked closely with the public schools, town officials, heads of town organizations, and the private sector. Initiatives and innovations began to take root: Reading Champions, Skills for Success Summer School and Mentoring, AVID, Bridging the Digital Divide, Going Places with Books, and Tuning In To Music were a few from the beginning. The results were tangible and more community members began to notice and participate. Fast forward a decade. I marvel at what the Alliance has become and the lives it has touched. What could be more gratifying? A huge THANK YOU to everyone involved. Upward and onward!

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 9.04.49 PMJerry Rosenband – When Nancy Kail asked me to join with others around her table to set up an education foundation in Greenwich, I was happy to get involved. My two children each attended the Greenwich schools and I was aware of the great diversity within our community. My job was to handle all of the pieces that required tax filings to set up the organization as a 501 c3 non-profit. It has been my pleasure to work with the Greenwich Alliance for Education since the founding in 2006. I have been so impressed with the students and teachers who have benefited from our work over the last ten years.

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 9.04.53 PMHillary Stark – From the moment I sat in the old GHS auditorium as the parent of an 8th grader, I knew I wanted to contribute time to the Greenwich Public Schools in some other capacity than the PTA. As I watched the Orchestra being introduced by each middle school represented, I was shocked to see so few children from the western part of town participating in the music ensembles at the high school. When Nancy told me about the Alliance, I immediately signed up. I am so proud of everything the Alliance has accomplished and I am happy that I could play a part.

Janice Riddell – It was an honor to be involved in the founding of the Greenwich Alliance for Education and I am thrilled to see how it has grown and thrived. It has achieved its success through close partnerships with the community. Listening to and learning from educators, nonprofit leaders, and families has been key to developing programs that respond to critical needs and reach students in innovative ways. The Reaching Out Grants program has gone from strength to strength through this spirit of collaboration, serving as a catalyst for new initiatives and making a deep impact on students’ lives. The Founders Fund will extend the Alliance’s important investment in the futures of the wonderful AVID students. Congratulations to the Alliance’s superb professional staff and volunteers, and thank you to its dedicated supporters!

Joanne Zammit – I got involved with the Alliance because I believed that there were ways to give more children in Greenwich the opportunity to succeed in school, regardless of their economic situation. As a retired Greenwich teacher and past President of the Greenwich Education Association, joining this effort seemed a natural way to continueto improve the lives of children. Tuning In To Music came about when we discussed a music concert at GHS and realized there were no children from the western part of town in the program. Immediately, better representation became our goal. I am very proud of the work the Alliance has accomplished, especially of the success of early grants awarded, like AVID and Reading Champions.. My future wish for the Alliance is to find a way to reach the new parents in the community and help them give their children the best start possible and develop an education program for parents.. The town should be very proud of the leaders who have kept the Alliance thriving for the past years and those who will lead it forward.