BROOKSVILLE — The name is familiar. It is listed as a sponsor for this or that event. But what, exactly, is the Hernando County Education Foundation? And what does it do?
"The primary mission is to help meet the immediate needs of the school district and its students," said the organization's director of development Tracy Echols. "We're a private sector support group for the school system."
The foundation is made up mostly of business people, with some school employees, Echols said. There are about 15 members, assisted by volunteers.
The foundation, Echols said, carries out its mission largely through classroom grants. Individual teachers or groups of them can apply for minigrants, up to $1,000 for a single teacher and up to $1,500 for two or more.
The foundation supports career technical certification funding. If a student goes through a program but doesn't have the money to pay for the certification test, the foundation could absorb that cost.
Some examples, Echols said, are programs that train veterinarian techs, Web designers, automotive and electricity students. "They all cost. In some cases, the students go to take their GED and don't have the money for the test."
The foundation also helps in special-needs areas.
"Usually that's a need for clothing or assistance," Echols said. Examples are clothes for homeless kids and caps and gowns for graduates who can't afford them.
Two of the most recognizable functions of the foundation are the teacher of the year and the school related employee of the year dinners.
The foundation works with Spring Hill Lanes for the Turnaround Student Award Banquet, set for April 26. Each school selects a student who has made a positive turnaround, and those students are recognized.
The foundation is working with Deltona Elementary to acquire books. The Pasco/Hernando Early Learning Coalition has donated $1,000 worth of books to help the school meet its annual yearly progress.
The foundation is involved with Progress Success at Hernando High, Star Center and Central High, which encourages and recognizes positive behavior. It is also working with VISTA, Volunteers in Service To America, and AmeriCorps to coordinate its members for an Eastside Elementary literacy program.
The foundation also supports HEART Literacy and the Springs Coast Environmental Education Center.
These programs require funding, which is raised mostly through grants and donations. Major donors are the Suncoast School Federal Credit Union, the Community Foundation of Hernando County, Capital City Bank and the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations, which partners with large corporations such as AT&T and Amscot.
The foundation receives funding or other kinds of donations, such as volunteers, from the St. Petersburg Times, the project development and construction group Skanska, Belk Foundation, Kohl's for Kids and McDonald's.
School Board member James Yant donates a portion of his pay to the foundation to fund $25 supply grants for teachers.
The foundation also hosts fundraisers, including its "Evening of Elegance for Education," and a golf tournament is approaching. It's set for May 21 at Southern Hills Plantation Club. The event includes 18 holes, a golf cart, raffle tickets, prizes and dinner for $100 a person. Hole sponsorships are available.