The Education Foundation of Harris County’s (EFHC) inaugural fundraiser kicked off with smooth melodies as the Westbury High School Jazz Band set the tone for an unforgettable afternoon celebrating creativity and innovation with their brass and rhythm.
EFHC and Harris County Department of Education board members and community partners gathered at the Junior League of Houston for The HeART of Education fundraiser. The event theme recognized HCDE’s 30-year partnership with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program, a prestigious recognition program that showcases students in grades 7-12 with exceptional artistic and literary talents.
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The foundation supports scholastic by offering grants so students can travel to the national awards program in New York and also provides grants for classroom projects, student scholarships, and teacher supplies in local school districts.
“We have worked for the last three years to expand our reach directly into the school districts of Harris County with scholarships and grants to fill unmet needs on campuses and in classrooms,” HCDE Chief of Staff Danielle Bartz said on Tuesday.
EFHC is the non-profit, philanthropic arm of Harris County Department of Education, generating support for educational programs and initiatives in Harris County’s 25 school districts. In the opening address, EFHC Board President Steven David recalled being a child of the arts, participating in Swinging Strings, a program that developed his love for music and taught him how to play the cello and double bass.
“As we see budgets tighten and changes in school funding, these programs are the first ones on the chopping block,” said David. “It was important for our board to focus on the arts because it’s one of the foundational components of our community that bring out creativity and allow people to shine in their own way.”
The more than 150 guests in the room were invited to view students’ award-winning artwork from the 2023 Scholastic Awards Program.
Emotions ran high as attendees were introduced to several EFHC Partners in Education Scholarship Program recipients through video testimonials. Ancel Ramos was a high school dropout now enrolled at Lone Star College, and Sandy Hernandez, was on track to attend college until a tornado left her struggling financially. With their $2,500 scholarship from EFHC, Ramos is pursuing his passion in computer science, and Hernandez is attending San Jacinto Community College with dreams of becoming a nurse.
Superintendent James Colbert Jr. delivered the keynote address highlighting his experience during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Drawing inspiration from the Cajun Navy and a community banding together to provide food, water, and shelter to those in need, Colbert recognized that unity was needed in education. In the wake of Harvey, he proposed that EFHC be an outlet to combine financial support, public educators’ knowledge, and critical partners’ passion for assisting students and teachers.
“Everyone in this room is what I consider critical partners. They’re the people that when the bell is rung, they step in to help wherever is needed to impact society,” said Colbert. “I ask that you inspire more private and philanthropic entities to provide support and work together with public educators to make our society better than we found it.”
In recent years, EFHC has funded grants to aid the purchase of automated external defibrillator (AED) towers, Spanish dictionaries, STEM equipment, art supplies, needed technology and more.
The foundation is finalizing donations from the HeART of Education gala, and proceeds will continue funding grants and scholarships, providing classroom supplies to teachers, and filling the gaps in Harris County’s 25 school districts.
To learn more about the Education Foundation of Harris County, visit hcde-texas.org/efhc.
To donate, visit hcde-texas.org/GiveToEFHC.