Two families give $45,000 to Lake Washington students
September 5, 2012 · 11:49 AM
The Lake Washington Schools Foundation received financial gifts this year totaling $45,000 from Nancy and Ben Remak of Kirkland, and Mark and Liz Finocchio of Redmond.
Both families say they appreciate the “human connection” of the school district’s LINKS mentoring program, which matches caring adult volunteers with struggling students. LINKS is made possible through foundation support, and individual donors like the Remaks and Finocchios are the backbone of the foundation’s fund-raising efforts.
Nancy Remak has been a LINKS lunch buddy mentor at Kirkland’s Rose Hill Elementary for 13 years. Her positive mentoring experience motivated her $20,000 donation because she wanted to give more students the opportunity to have a mentor. LINKS volunteers work with at-risk students to help them feel engaged, supported and challenged in school. Donations will help the school district provide staff to organize and train additional LINKS volunteers.
Remak originally decided to volunteer with LINKS when her daughter Elsa wanted a lunch buddy but couldn’t have one because there weren’t enough volunteers.
According to Remak, “LINKS could always use more volunteers. Getting to know individual students and developing special bonds over the years is so special. Knowing how much the students look forward to my visits makes me feel like I am making a positive difference in their lives.” Eventually Elsa Remak received her own lunch buddy who became a role model to the only child.
Nancy Remak’s experience with her lunch buddies echoes positive school reports on student progress. According to Remak, “I believe that the lunch-buddy day is truly a special day for students. I would suspect that students are less likely to miss school on their scheduled lunch-buddy days. As for my current buddy, I have seen so much growth and confidence in her over the past three years.”
The Finocchio family wanted a portion of Mark Finocchio’s prestigious Microsoft Technical Recognition Award, earned as part of the Kinect development team, to impact their “home community.” The Finocchios decided that by donating $25,000 to the schools foundation, they could impact their entire school district, particularly those schools that need more support.
They appreciate the fact that the foundation not only helps schools create innovative programs, but also “helps even the playing field” between students. They especially like the LINKS program in this regard because it helps at-risk kids build relationships with caring adults. Liz Finocchio is a former educator and believes that students benefit from connections with positive adult role models. Both Finocchio children attend Rockwell Elementary because it is important to the Finocchios that their children attend public schools.
Liz Finocchio is happy with the education her children are receiving at Rockwell, but knows that not all students have the same parental support and resources. She appreciates that the Lake Washington Schools Foundation supports all schools across the district, with an emphasis on the students who need the most support.