Beginning October 1st the town of Ashby will see a number of community initiatives rolled out by the new community foundation, the Ashby Legacy Fund. As a community-led foundation, the Ashby Legacy Fund was established by a group of Ashby alumni with the single purpose of investing back into the community to assist in preserving Ashby as a special place to live for residents and families for generations to come.
Establishing a strong foundation for Ashby to continue to grow and flourish, ALF will focus efforts on three areas of impact: Community Initiatives, School Programming, and Student Scholarship Programs. The community initiative will focus on investing in areas of the community for progression and development. School programming will partner with the school and teachers to fund equipment, curriculum, and school programs. The scholarship program, rolling out over the coming weeks, will focus on providing a school-wide scholarship program for every Ashby student in grades one through 12, along with strong positive messaging for students and families to advance their future expectations, to provide an opportunity for every student to afford a secondary education, and to give back to the community.
Behind ALF is an eleven-member board of alumni, teachers, parents, and residents of Ashby including Paula Wojcik, Al Niemann, Dallas Rylander, John Kent, Heidi Hoff, Suzanne Wing, Greg Smedsrud, Renee Melby, Nick Olson, Dwight Walvatne, and Rob Nelson with student representatives senior Josey Ness and junior Amelia Barry. First and foremost for ALF is a sense and desire for unmatched community. Founding President Rob Nelson shared his inspiration for this endeavor saying, “Growing up in Ashby, I have always been grateful for the support of the community. You honestly cannot find a better place to grow up.”
Having the aspiration to give back to the community which he loves, Nelson began talking with community members, school alumni, and businesses in early 2018. What he found was a consensus of opinion: people want to give back and invest in their community, their home, and their future. “Ashby is unique,” said Nelson, “not many similar towns of this size still have their own school, not to mention the businesses that Ashby sustains.”
To maintain that value, the community needs to pull together even more as the economy fluctuates and open-enrollment threatens to pull families from the community and district. “We want Ashby to continue to be the preferred place people want to live,” said Wojcik. To ensure that happens, ALF is proposing town improvement initiatives and projects not only for sustainability but also the enrichment of the community.
The ALF board believes a driving contributor to the sustainability of Ashby is its school. “The school has always been at the heart of the town from the beginning,” said Nelson. As the average class size in Ashby has fluctuated over the years, ongoing concerns of consolidation remain top of mind for residents. Consolidating Ashby Public School with a neighboring district could have potentially adverse effects on community businesses and also impact the population.
“Without the Ashby Public School, Ashby wouldn’t be the community it is,” said Nelson concerning ALF’s focus on school programming. “We want to retain the best teachers and staff, and draw the best families and students into our district,” continued Nelson. “To do that we need to invest directly into the school through direct educational programming, projects, and classroom equipment.”
In addition to community and school initiatives, ALF is rolling out a scholarship program aimed to motivate Ashby students from an early age to aspire for bold futures and encourage continuing generations of Ashby graduates to pursue post-secondary education opportunities. This initiative is intended to be available to all eligible students that graduate from Ashby Public Schools.
“ALF is about starting conversations with students beginning at the first-grade level. We want them to think about what they want to be when they grow up and then show them they can actually achieve that,” said Paula Wojcik, Executive Director of Ashby Legacy Fund. “We start these conversations when they are young and continue every year so that when they graduate from high school, they know there is nothing stopping them from going after their dreams.”
“Our students are the future of Ashby,” said Nelson. “If we establish these opportunities for them now, they will not only be encouraged but will also have the resources to give back to future generations.”
Families enrolled at Ashby Public School will be receiving informational packets by mail in the next few weeks detailing the rollout of the ALF Scholarship Program. Students in first through twelfth grades will be eligible to participate, with each student accruing a scholarship balance as they continue their education at Ashby Public School each year.
In accordance to program requirements, students will perform one fundraiser and one community “give back” project each year. “Our aim is for students to have an independent sense of contributing to their own fund,” said Nelson. “In addition, we want to reinforce the current community principle of giving back.”
Several community members, alumni, and businesses have already generously donated to help establish the fund. In fact, through these legacy donations, administrative costs through 2018 are covered “What this means is for every dollar donated to ALF by new donors before December 31, their funds will directly support community and school projects,” said Wojcik.
Ashby Legacy Fund is community, longevity, pride, and sustainability. It is giving back. “We need the help of community businesses and residents, alumni, and current students to make this program successful,” said Nelson.
For more information about Ashby Legacy Fund or making a contribution, please visit the ALF website at www.ashbylegacyfund.org, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @ashbylegacyfund.