The recent South Country Education Foundation gala, at the home of Chantal and Richard Berman, celebrated a quarter century of this nonprofit funding enrichment programs for South Country students …
The recent South Country Education Foundation gala, at the home of Chantal and Richard Berman, celebrated a quarter century of this nonprofit funding enrichment programs for South Country students that the district can’t provide. More than 400 attendees came this year, said SCEF president Robin Young Roe.
“This year we raised the most money,” she said. They’ve raised more than $1.2 million since its founding.”
As for the projects they support, “We have a grant process, and the requests are generated from the teachers,” explained Roe. “We do a lot in music and the arts.”
That would include the South Country Summer Music Program, a one-week experience giving students a chance to participate in band and orchestra rehearsals and a combined philharmonic ensemble, filling young ears with harmonies they may not be familiar with or taking up instruments they never thought they could play.
But there are also items like flexible chairs, an option for students having issues just sitting in one place. “It helps them stay focused,” said board member Michael Chiaramonte.
Then there are the trips to places off the beaten path.
“A lot are also applying for field trips,” added trustee Sue Sangiamo.
“In our district in particular, a lot can’t get out to Montauk Point or to the Long Island Aquarium,” said Roe. “We also do things with CEED (Center for Environmental Education & Discovery).”
A trip out to the beauty and wilds of Montauk Point with its historic lighthouse, coming face to face with seals at the aquarium and watching sharks as they glide underwater and understanding their ecological value, can change a youngster’s life and thinking. So can CEED, with its programs, steering kids to a bigger view of nature and its value.
“Sometimes, it’s not easy to get to these places,” emphasized Chiaramonte.
“We also started offering scholarships,” said Sangiamo of the $1,000 awards. “It’s two high school students. It’s students who will give back in some way.”
This year, a culinary student and one in trades received the scholarships.
That’s just a sample. There are many more programs that evolved because of their funding.
Besides the generosity of businesses that pitch in for the gala with food, flowers, whatever is needed, and the supporters who attend, the Knapp-Swezey Foundation has been a big donor as well.
At the gala, students were tapped as servers and did some heavy lifting. “They wore uniforms and were drilled in serving,” said trustee Pamela Lerner.
Attendees even write thank-you notes after the event—that’s how much fun it is, said Sangiamo.
Besides the beautiful grounds and affectionate catching up with neighbors raising the happiness factor, “We’ve auctioned off unicycle lessons,” said Roe. Getting right into the spirit, one participant hopped on a unicycle one year, cycling around with a clown nose.
It got the attention of a guest, who purchased it. Hot dig!
“I think people feel it’s more than a party,” Roe said of the evening. “It’s a cause, and we’re making a difference in a world that’s going crazy. Frank Lento, a former president, even comes back from Florida for it.” For more information or to donate, pop up