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BEF Looking to the Future of Education Initiatives

For 16 years the Burlington Education Foundation (BEF) has been devoted to student success and recently reached a milestone having provided over $400,000 in support programs across all grades in Burlington Public Schools.

The BEF is currently in the process of their annual Membership Campaign, and seeking candidate recommendations for their STAR Awards. A BEF Membership helps promote community support for educational grants and over the years the STAR Awards have honored individuals in the education system.

There are lots of reasons to be thankful for teachers this past year: their support, their kindness, and their dedication to teaching kids through these untested times. A STAR Award is a creative way to give thanks for the extra efforts teachers make for students.

“What better way to end the school year than to thank a teacher and/or congratulate a student. They’ve certainly gone through quite a bit,” said BEF President Paula Boermeester.

Boermeester talked about the “crippling effect” the pandemic has had on the organization’s fundraising, but some good things have come of it with several volunteers stepping up during the free time allotted by quarantine.

“Trying to recreate yourself in the virtual world is a challenge,” said Boermeester. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised with the response to our Sponsor drive. Local businesses still believe in educational excellence. But we’re behind.”

A shining example of the BEF’s grant efforts is Scooter from the National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS) who visits Burlington classrooms as a therapeutic companion for students. Scooter’s handler Burlington High School Special Education Department Head Christina Cicolini has made Scooter such a success BHS Psychology Teacher Rachel Gould has taken on Porter for Assistance Dog training.

“That’s the beautiful thing about the Education Foundation: we try to promote grants that will really make a long lasting effect in the school system and hopefully be adopted as a program in the school system. Scooter is absolutely one of those,” said Boermeester.

The service dog program has proved so successful the BEF allocated another NEADS grant for Marshall Simonds Middle School.

“We felt so strongly about it, and we don’t typically repeat grants but when Marshall Simonds came to us for the adoption of Moose we felt the timeliness of the request on the cusp of COVID it made absolute sense to help fund that particular dog. It’s a beautiful thing seeing the school system being able to adopt that,” Boermeester said.

Burlington School’s robotics programs have blossomed and thrived thanks to a single grant of about $500 in 2006 to buy the robot kit that started the BHS robotic team the DevilBots. A program that now trickles down to the middle school and elementary levels. The BHS robotics program operates like a corporation with a marketing team, accounting, finance, development and has gone on to compete internationally and in some cases students have pursued careers in those areas based on the simple seed money from the BEF.

“That’s what the BEF is all about,” said Boermeester.

The organization is currently focused on internal restructuring and is recruiting new members to take over.

“A third of our board has no children left in the school system and continue to work with the Burlington Education Foundation because we see what great work it does and how important it is in our community,” Boemeester said. “Board members with younger kids not even in the school system yet are building into the future.”

The BEF is also in the process of redesigning the website for easier use and to give the BEF Sponsors better exposure.

“We are appreciative of the overwhelming support we’ve gotten from area businesses and how many in our community really respect and honor educational excellence,” said Boemeester.

You can join the BEF Board of Directors or become a Member to give back and help sustain the BEF’s mission by Clicking Here. Checks can be mailed directly to the BEF at P.O. Box 756, Burlington MA 01803.

The BEF has their team in place to process this year’s STAR Award submissions so be sure to make your nomination for a special teacher, student or Burlington Schools employee who has gone the extra, extra mile.

The BEF is proud of their grants and the success they’ve had. Sometimes providing a couple hundred dollars in starter money, in other cases making a considerable contribution of several thousand dollars. The funding the Burlington Education Foundation provides has always been money well spent.