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The Warsaw Education Foundation began in 1987, when a group of Warsaw business leaders volunteered to connect local businesses with the school corporation. Their focus was to equip leaders with a host of benefits including student awareness of work ethics, opportunities, and more. This is mainly accomplished by providing grants, which empower teachers and advance enrichment opportunities in the classroom. As the mission statement says, the Warsaw Education Foundation "firmly believes that today's students are tomorrow's leaders, and the quality of our future depends on the excellence of today's educational experiences."

Barb Smolen is the third and longest serving executive director for the Warsaw Education Foundation.

Smolen most enjoys working with the teachers and processing the applications for grants. "School budgets do not cover everything that's needed in a classroom," says Smolen. "Teachers in the classrooms have great ideas that we can help implement, and we try to address both the needs and wants. The more funding we can raise from the community, the more grants we can award."

The Warsaw Education Foundation bylaws state that the foundation provides funding for WCS, and exists for that purpose alone. "This has always been the case," says Smolen. "The whole community benefits from educated citizens." Over the past five years, an average of $16,000 has been awarded through grants.

"We have really innovative teachers," Smolen says. Abbi Richcreek, a teacher in the robotics class at the high school, applied for a grant to purchase three robot kits. These kits don't come with instructions, just parts. The kids design and build their own robots, using the parts. The students succeeded, and these robots made a special appearance at the Community Quiz Bowl.

The next year, Richcreek applied for another grant for underwater robots. Again, the students applied their knowledge and skills by designing and building them, and set up an obstacle course in theschool's pool. Using underwater cameras attached to the robots, the students had to navigate the course with their backs turned to the pool. "The relationship to what they're doing in the classroom applies to real world experience, where they experience possibilities for a career, such as marine technology," Smolen says. The best part of Smolen's job is getting to see how the grants enrich the students.

"It is the coolest thing! When you only see it on paper, it's just words."

Smolen is currently preparing to train teachers in grant application, equipping them with tools they need to succeed. Preparing for the coming years, the foundation continues to build endowment and increase funding for grant opportunities. This includes the Community Quiz Bowl. "It's a community team Jeopardy! sort of event," says Smolen. "There are different categories, and the highest score wins. The community teams get a little competitive about winning!"

The Warsaw Education Foundation is currently seeking board member applications.

If you are interested in serving, contact Barb at 574.371.5098, or email edfoundation@warsawschools.org.

For more information about the Warsaw Education Foundation, visit WarsawEducationFoundation.org.
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