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Winchester Giving Back Through Education: Featuring The Winchester Foundation for Educational Excellence

By Kristen Bosse

While there are many factors in a child's life that determine their success as an adult, there is no denying the heavy importance of a quality education. Investment in the early education of disadvantaged or advantaged students pays extremely high returns down the road. Studies that have followed children through their adult lives confirm enormous payoffs for these investments, whether measured in improved success in college, higher income or even lower incarceration rates.

This point seems extremely clear to The Winchester Foundation for Educational Excellence, a non-profit organization existing to support innovation and excellence in the Winchester Public Schools. The main focus of the foundation is to provide private money to fund initiatives that are beyond the reach of public funds. Over the last 20+ years of its existence, WFEE has donated nearly 4 million dollars to the Winchester public school system. That money comes directly from parents and other community members, touching all 4,400 students in the public schools. Local businesses have also supported their mission, making this a truly community-based foundation.

powerED UP! Campaign

WFEE's powerED UP! Campaign is perhaps their largest initiative, designed to completely transform Winchester learning through the integration of technology into the classrooms. This three-year project will upgrade wireless network infrastructure, purchase student devices, provide teacher training and fund management software to allow Winchester to become a "Bring Your Own Device" district. This means that students will be able to use their own iPads, Chromebooks, smart phones, or other devices as educational tools in the classroom. Concerned your child will get distracted on Instagram or Facebook? Not to worry! The management software would allow the district to remotely control what sites the students could visit and what software could be accessed in school. With the huge wave of technology products recently released, children seem more comfortable with a touch screen than a pencil. This fact combined with the limitless amount of useful information on the Internet validates why technology needs to be embedded as a tool for every student and educator.

Currently, the Winchester Public School system is at a crossroads. Some schools have the ability to approach each lesson in a new way, accessing resources online and utilizing a variety of devices. However, there are other schools where Internet is slow and unreliable. Students struggle with old computers and teachers don't have enough devices for the classroom. This campaign will hopefully change all of this and make technology-driven learning accessible to the entire town. To date, WFEE has already donated $180,000 in support of powerED UP!, allowing for updates of the network infrastructure, extensive professional development and the purchase of student devices.

Winchester's Authorfest

Authorfest is annual event that brings 20-25 authors and illustrators of children's books to town for a daylong celebration of literature. All classrooms, pre-K through 8 meet with an author or illustrator who talks about how books are created ? the inspiration, the hard work and the final product. This event allows for thousands of our students to come together with renowned authors to share their love of books. At the end of today there is a book sale at Town Hall, where students can meet the authors face to face and get an autograph.

Programs like this are imperative for students because it allows them to connect with a "real" writer and hear that even THEY struggle when it comes to writing. The authors tend to open up and talk about how much time they spend revising their work and how it all comes together. An event like this inspires children to keep practicing writing and revising, in order to further hone their skills and maybe write their own book one day!

Caren Connelly, Executive Director of WFEE, shared what this Annual Event has meant for her and her family.
"I have personally heard young children talk about how meeting authors put the fun back into school for them and opened up the idea that they could turn something they love, reading and writing, into a career. My daughter, a 21-year old young woman, still has every autographed book bought at Authorfest on a shelf in her room. She can still tell you about presentations that she heard 10 years ago. It is a very powerful day."

Moving Forward...

In a world full of so many challenges, education is the most powerful tool we can have in our corner. Great schools build strong, supportive communities for all residents, even those without children in the school system. The power of a quality education is limitless, having the ability to create leaders, who have the capability to institute change. If you want to give back to your community, start at the source by educating you children and the children of your peers. Only then will you allow your community to reach its full potential.

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Kristen has written impressive content including press releases and feature stories...

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