Community

Park City Education Foundation

Providing Perks for All

Amelia Nielson-Stowell | Photos courtesy of Park City Education Foundation Jul 9, 2018

Tour one of Park City’s public schools offering programs like robotics, jazz musician mentorships and dual-immersion libraries — and you’d probably think such perks were par for the course in a wealthy ski town.

You would be wrong. Twenty-two percent of the student body uses the free or reduced lunch program, 26 percent are minorities and 8 percent are English language learners. Utah has the lowest funded public education system in the country, and only 4 percent of income taxes generated in Park City stay in the district.

Nonetheless, Park City schools manage to thrive because of the Park City Education Foundation, one of the most successful educational nonprofits in the state.

“People don’t often know this about Park City, but we do have an economically diverse population because we’re a service community,” says Abby McNulty, executive director of PCEF. “And our public schools are on the front line because public education funding is so undermined. The programs funded by the foundation put everyone on equal footing. They launch kids’ dreams.”

Progressive Programs

The foundation raises $1.5 million a year for the district — money that funds more than 90 programs across Park City’s seven public schools. Most of that money is donated by parents, which is an incredible amount in a small, rural town with just 5,000 students.

“People here, they love the schools, they love the teachers, they love the principals and they are willing to make investments into the school,” McNulty says.

PCEF encourages parents to donate $180 each year, averaging $1 a day for the 180 days students are in a classroom. Corporate sponsors (like Zions Bank) also contribute. Donations pay for things like winter clothes for homeless students, preschool tuition, coding classes, teacher grants and the successful Elementary Visual Arts program.  

EVA is bolstered by a partnership with the Kimball Art Center in Park City. Art classes are taught every two to four weeks and crafted around the Utah Core Curriculum Standards. Students are taught about artists, experiment with varying mediums and end the year with a large art portfolio of their work.

“All of my students can repeat my mantra: There is no bad art,” says Stefani Kimche, art teacher at McPolin Elementary. “Many students who struggle with the traditional educational model can excel in their art lessons and gain confidence and feel a sense of accomplishment that they might be missing elsewhere.”

Bright Futures

Aiming to make college a reality for all Park City students, PCEF also funds Bright Futures, a high school program for the 20 percent of the student body who are first-generation college students. Under the direction of Rebeca Gonzalez, program director, 50 Park City High School students were mentored and guided this year through the intimidating process of college knowledge and prep.

Gonzalez, a PCHS grad and first-generation college student herself, says she pushes the “4/40 rule” — students can either work hard and smart for four years in high school or work in physically demanding jobs for the next 40 years.

“If you want to make a better future to provide for a family one day and break the cycle of poverty, you have to continue onto higher education,” Gonzalez says. “These students want to make their family proud. Bright Futures helps drive their success.”

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