Juanita High School student and event emcee Grace Harrington addresses the crowd at the Lake Washington Schools Foundation luncheon on Tuesday. Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

Lake Washington Schools Foundation focuses on preparing students for the future

Investing in the future.

That is part of the Lake Washington Schools Foundation’s (LWSF) tagline and it was one of the themes at its 12th annual spring luncheon on Tuesday.

The event was one of two fundraisers held this week at the Seattle Marriott Redmond to bring in money to help further classroom learning within the Lake Washington School District (LWSD).

Money from the fundraiser will go toward various programs that are funded by LWSF such as Natural Leaders to help parents become more involved in their students’ schools and the New Teacher Support Program (NTSP) for first- and second-year teachers.

These two programs were highlighted at Tuesday’s event to demonstrate how the foundation helps students.

Sharon Gossett, a Title 1 facilitator at Robert Frost Elementary School in Kirkland, spoke about Natural Leaders.

As the school lead for the program, she said parent involvement can be key to students succeeding in school and they had been having difficulty engaging about a third of parents in school activities. Gossett said these parents tended to come from lower-income or English Language Learner families and Natural Leaders acts as a bridge between those communities and the school.

Through Natural Leaders, Gossett said they train and mentor parents, reaching out to help them learn how to maneuver the system and ask questions.

Alongside Gossett was parent leader Sunny Verme. Verme shared her story as a Korean immigrant who went from having a mother who was on the board of the PTSA equivalent in South Korea to feeling out of the loop and not being involved in Verme’s schooling at all when they moved to the United States.

Verme said she has seen some members of Natural Leaders go from not speaking much English to being involved in planning events at the school. She said while these parents still may not say much, they are still there and a part of things.

Verme said these parents want their children to succeed in school as much as anyone else — they just have more barriers.

Another component in student success is teachers and Tuesday’s event highlighted NTSP, which provides support for teachers at the beginning of their careers.

Heidi Bickler, a consulting teacher for the program, told the audience that NTSP was created because students need the best chance to succeed.

NTSP has a one-to-one mentorship component to offer teachers support and help with their professional development.

Bickler said LWSF provides funds for substitute teachers so NTSP teachers can go on peer visits to other classrooms around the district to see their peers work, discuss possible collaborations and learn how to implement strategies in their own classrooms.

“The job is exhausting but with the right tools and support, it’s certainly worth it,” said Laura Sullivan, a kindergarten teacher at Emily Dickinson Elementary School near Redmond, about NTSP.

There were also a few students who shared how school programs have helped them find their passions.

Both Rafael de Leon and Grace Harrington of Redmond High School and Juanita High School, respectively, shared how they got involved in drama and how that has not only helped them with their public speaking skills but also in other aspects of life such as making friends.

LWSD Superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce also introduced the Innovation Fund, which the district is launching to ensure that schools have the resources to meet the demands of the 21st century.

“Public education is a community effort,” she said in a statement on the LWSF website. “Parent and community partnerships help all our students and schools succeed. On behalf of the entire Lake Washington School District, I want to thank you for your continued engagement and support. Together, we can reach our vision of Every Student, Future Ready.”

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