Community

Luncheon raises $564,150 to help Bellevue kids

Stevenson Elementary School first grader Anisa Ally, right, speaks during the Spring for Shools benefit for the Bellevue Schools Foundation as classmate Michelle Dunayvitser and principal Christy Lindquist listen at the Meyedenbauer Center in Bellevue on Thursday, June 4. - Chad Coleman/Bellevue Reporter
Stevenson Elementary School first grader Anisa Ally, right, speaks during the Spring for Shools benefit for the Bellevue Schools Foundation as classmate Michelle Dunayvitser and principal Christy Lindquist listen at the Meyedenbauer Center in Bellevue on Thursday, June 4.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Bellevue Reporter

The Bellevue Schools Foundation's (BSF) annual fundraiser luncheon raised $564,150 to benefit Bellevue schools. More than 1,000 community members, teachers, school parents, and business leaders attended the Spring for Schools event.

Each year, the funds raised by the foundation go towards bridging the achievement gap, academic support and teaching excellence within the Bellevue School District.

The funding raised through community donations touches the lives of the more than 16,000 students attending Bellevue Schools. First-graders Michelle Dunayvitser and Anisa Ally have experienced the benefits of the extra funding first hand.

Both girls entered kindergarden at Stevenson Elementary School last year without speaking a word of English. Michelle spoke Russian and Anisa spoke Swahili.

With the extra funding raised by the BSF over the last two years, Stevenson was able to hire a part-time classroom aide to work with students who spoke first languages other than English.

Michelle and Anisa shared their story in front of the packed room at the Meydenbauer Center.

"On the first day of kindergarden, I felt scared. I didn't know any body in my class," said a very brave Michelle as she stood at the podium during the luncheon.

"I didn't know what the people or my teacher were saying because I spoke Russian and they spoke other languages. Now I feel happy about coming to school. I know what the kids are saying and what the teacher is saying and I can read the chapter book and any other book," she said, adding "When I grow up I want to become a teacher."

According to Stevenson Elementary Principal Christy Lindquist, 75 percent of the kindergarden students speak a first language other than English and 32 percent qualify for the free or reduced-lunch program. Twenty percent of the students entering Stevenson have never spoken a word of English prior to their first day of school at Stevenson.

"Having the part-time aide in the classroom has made all the difference," said Lindquist. "A year prior to this, only 20 percent of kindergarden students were meeting or exceeding the reading expectations of the school district. This year, an astonishing 80 percent of our students are meeting or exceeding the district reading standards."

The foundation continues to work to improve student learning through districtwide academic initiatives, curriculum material and book purchases, training opportunities for teachers, and an array of programs that meet students' special needs.

Microsoft Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Corporate Secretary, Legal & Corporate Affairs Brad Smith was a featured speaker at the luncheon.

"Across the state people appreciate the high test scores that our students achieve. Across the country, people recognize the great accomplish of our high schools. And literally around the world, our public schools produce the on time high school graduation rate of 89 percent that would impress anyone, anywhere," said Smith, who also is Board Chair of Partnership for Learning. "It's the leadership from this entire community that makes this school district such a success."

The BSF was created in 1979 to bridge the gap between the basic funding provided by the state and what the community feels the district's students need to truly excel academically.

Newly appointed superintendent, Dr. Amalia Cudeiro also spoke at the Spring for Schools luncheon.

"My personal education experience is a statement that having high expectations and a rigorous academic program are key ingredients to the success of every student regardless of socioeconomic background, the languages that they speak, and their ethnicity," Cudeiro explained. "We have a lot to celebrate in Bellevue Public schools."

Dr. Cudeiro was born in Cuba and later obtained a Ph.D. from Harvard.

Lindsay Larin can be reached at 425.453.4602.

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