O’FALLON – The O’Fallon Township High School Endowment Fund has continued to turn the aspirations of students and teachers of O’Fallon into reality.
Operating as a nonprofit organization independent from the OTHS Board of Education, the Endowment Fund provides funds at Milburn and Smiley campuses with extended educational activities not provided by the school district.
It was established in 1999 to give alumni, community members, businesses and others an opportunity to enhance the quality programs offered to students at the high school. Funds contributed provide OTHS students with scholarships, computer software, hardware and other resources.
Dan Jackson, current president of the Endowment Fund Board, said school districts often have limited resources due to decreasing government funding within the last decade.
“What we try to do is to provide additional resources to ensure that OTHS is able to offer the quality education it has always had,” Jackson said.
Jackson said the biggest fundraising event for the Endowment Fund is the annual golf tournament that takes place the first Saturday in May. There is also the brick walk at the entrance to the OTHS Smiley campus. Individuals are able to purchase bricks for a sum of either $100 or $200.
“OTHS is a public school and people are probably surprised to hear that we do have an endowment,” he said. “A lot of public schools aren’t as fortunate.”
Today, the Endowment Fund generates more than $40,000 annually for classroom grants.
An original Endowment Fund board member Doug Distler said that grant funding through the endowment is growing “leaps and bounds.” He said the purpose in creating the Board in 1999 was to provide additional financial resources for the high school with funds that weren’t available through the budget process.
“A lot of it has been technology, but there has been a variety of different programs we funded,” Distler said. “It’s important in this day and time, with budget cutbacks and cutbacks in funding from the state that there is something like the Endowment Fund that can fill the gap or need.”
Distler said there is a donor board near the entrance to the Smiley campus — it’s purpose is to recognize large donors to the fund.
“We have seen the endowment fund grow. All of the contributions made to the endowment fund — the only money we use for grants every year is the income dividends — it keeps growing year after year.”
The current balance of the OTHS Endowment Fund is a figure of $1,573,000.
“The more we can grow it, the more that we can do.”
Erin Baskett, who served as the Endowment Fund Board president from January of 2011 to January of 2019, said that as an alumni of OTHS, it is exciting to see the high quality of education that is still offered at the high school.
“It is extremely rewarding to help give back to future graduates,” she said.
“You can help support the Endowment Fund by buying a brick for the brick walk outside of the OTHS Smiley campus or by participating in our nine hole golf scramble coming up on May 4th at Tamarack.”
Dr. Martha Weld, who is the OTHS assistant superintendent and also the Endowment Fund Liaison, said the philosophy of the Endowment Fund is “truly to focus on improving the academics and the opportunities of the students of OTHS.”
Weld said the Endowment Fund board is “a group of people that just donate their time and work really conscientiously and with passion and full heart.”
“They really want to make a difference in the lives of kids,” she said.
Weld said the Endowment Fund has proved to be of importance in times of economic crisis.
“When 2008 hit, our funding went down from both the state and the community. The Endowment Fund stepped in and they were giving grants to our teachers.”
“We weren’t able to continue to buy lab equipment. All supplies were cut,” she said. “The Endowment Fund was allowing us to continue to buy supplies to meet the needs of our students by giving grants to the teachers. That was putting supplies directly in their hands.”
“It was a very powerful and heartwarming time for me. It was so hard but they were right there.”
Weld said the Endowment Fund philosophy reaches many facets of education programs at the high school — from music, library services, math, science, at risk students and high achieving students.
“They really try to make sure that the grants they award cover all aspects of students at OTHS, not just one end or the other.”