Frisco Education Foundation scopes out funding as senior scholarship need increases

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The Frisco Education Foundation plans to ramp up its fundraising efforts to keep up with Frisco ISD’s growing scholarship needs.

Last school year, the foundation awarded nearly $680,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors in eight FISD high schools, Frisco Education Foundation President Sunitha Cheruvu said. With Lebanon Trail and Memorial high schools welcoming their first senior classes in the 2019-20 school year, the Frisco Education Foundation will need to find scholarship funds to assist seniors at 10 FISD high schools.

“The need is definitely there,” Cheruvu said. “And as we grow—as our schools grow—our need for our city and our kids and our future is going to continue to grow.”

In the 2018-19 school year, the foundation received 1,432 scholarship applications from seniors, nearly a 4% increase from the year before. Of those applicants, 719 received scholarships—a rate of just over 50%.

In addition to scholarships for graduating seniors, the Frisco Education Foundation awards teacher grants and funds a variety of educational programs. The foundation raises funds through an annual 5K & Fun Run held in November, a weeklong summer camp called Mindbender Academy, corporate sponsors and personal donations.

“I know that we need to raise the bar on our fundraising,” former Frisco Education Foundation President Geneva Polster said.

The base scholarship is $500, but the foundation aims to raise that amount as college tuition and fees get more expensive, Polster said.

“We would love to raise the amount of scholarships if we could,” Polster said. “Because money doesn’t go as far as it used to, and our scholarship amounts have stayed the same.”

Between 2008-09 and 2018-19, average tuition-and-fee prices rose by $930 at public two-year colleges, by $2,670 at public four-year colleges and by $7,390 at private, nonprofit four-year colleges and universities, according to a report by College Board’s annual survey of colleges.

With greater need and the goal of an increased scholarship amount, Cheruvu said the foundation has yet to quantify the amount needed for this school year. However, the foundation will push for November’s fun run to be bigger than before by getting more people to sign up, she said.

“[The fun run is] one of the ways I think Frisco holds on to its character and who we are as a city,” Cheruvu said.

Additionally, both Polster and Cheruvu said showing the Frisco Education Foundation’s effect on students through marketing will be key to increased funding.

“It’s difficult to get the word out about who we are,” Polster said.

The foundation presented teacher grants at an FISD convocation before the start of the school year for the first time, which Polster said helped show the entire district what the Frisco Education Foundation does.

While the foundation is able to speak about “impressive” statistics, Cheruvu said she wants marketing to be more personalized moving forward into the school year. The foundation will leverage these stories through social media, its e-newsletter and events, she said.

As the foundation strategizes to address the district’s needs, FISD superintendent Mike Waldrip said the Frisco Education Foundation will be able to adjust to the growth.

“They’ve been a crucial part of what we do in our school district,” Waldrip said. “They’re another partner that we’ve had all these years, and they’ve grown with the district, and I think they’ll continue to grow with the district.”

As the 2019-20 school year progresses, Polster said the foundation will continue searching for additional ways to increase funding to accommodate Lebanon Trail and Memorial high schools’ graduating seniors.

“People don’t think Frisco has a financial need for our students, but we do,” Polster said. “And they’d be surprised by that, but our goal is to figure out how to raise those funds so we can help more students.”

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