SSEF Shares Success

It’s been a banner year for the Sartell-St. Stephen Education Foundation. SSEF announced more than $20,000 in education grants for 2010, a high for the group and a 30 percent increase over last year. It will also double its scholarship offerings this year, distributing $6,400 in scholarships to graduating seniors this June.

“It’s a marvelous program. It allows our children to have some very special opportunities at the elementary, middle school and high school level,” Superintendent Dale Gasser said.

The organization has been supporting Sartell schools for a dozen years. This year. with an expanded board and new director, SSEF has been intent on increasing community support.

SSEF set a fundraising record last fall, raising $55,000 at its Toast to Autumn event. The community’s generosity allowed the foundation to begin building its endowment for the first time since its inception in 1998.

It also allowed it to pour more dollars then ever into its goals: creating and enhancing educational programming and expanding technology opportunities for children of all ages.

“SSEF funding touches every child in our building in some way, ” said Lori Dornburg, an academic extension adviser at Sartell Middle School.

Sartell’s youngest students will benefit from SSEF grants to the preschool Building Language Together program.

Elementary school students will reap the rewards of grants that expand library options and purchase new technology, including mini laptop labs and GPS units.

Oak Ridge Elementary School was the recipient of the largest 2010 grant: $3,700 for the purchase of LCD projectors. Media Specialist Paul Moe said the grant will be matched by the school, allowing Oak Ridge to purchase and mount seven new projectors in different classrooms throughout the school.

“It’s very nice to have a group that is able to help fund projects the school district just doesn’t have funding for,” Moe said.

At Sartell Middle School, education foundation dollars will fund a variety of academic extension programs including Battle of the Books, chess, cribbage, sport stacking and a visiting author program.

“They help to fund about 20 different programs that I coordinate through academic extensions,” Dornburg said.


SSEF also awarded grants to “Wake Up, Sartell Middle School,” the school television production program, global studies programs and distance learning opportunities.

“It gives them a different way to learn,” Dornburg said. “It’s an expansion of the classroom where kids can have fun learning.”

Sixth-grade student Gopi Ramanathan is an SSEF success story. Ramanathan competed in the SSEF-sponsored Geography Bee and went on to win the Minnesota State Geography Bee. He will attend the national bee in Washington, D.C., later this month.

At Sartell High School, SSEF grants pave the way for freshman success through the Sabre Splash orientation program.

They also support teacher training for advanced placement courses and the purchase of a portable large screen projector that will be used throughout the school.

Gasser said the foundation’s efforts are critical at a time when shrinking budgets and delayed payments make it difficult for schools to fund more than basic programming.

“These programs are the first programs to go when funding is cut,” he said.

Gasser also likes the way the foundation reinforces the importance of learning in Sartell.

“The education foundation just by its very existence sends an important message — that our children’s education is important,” Gasser said. “It keeps education in front of the community and shows that people are invested in their children’s education in a variety of ways.”

Published in the St. Cloud Times on May 22, 2010.  Written by Jane Laskey.