Crawford AuSable Excellence in Education Foundation holding celebration dinner
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
It’s time to celebrate education in Crawford County, past, present, and especially the future for local students.
A celebration dinner with the theme “Reach for the Stars” will be held on Saturday, Sept. 9, at the Grayling High School to honor the creation of the Crawford AuSable Excellence in Education Foundation.
Plans for the foundation have been in the works for several years, and started in earnest last year when a board of directors was formed and it obtained its 501 C-3 non-profit status.
The purpose of the foundation is to:
• Provide academic scholarships to graduates from the Crawford AuSable School District who attend a post-secondary school with the goal of obtaining a degree.
• Provide necessary funds for competitive grants to educational organizations that operate with the Crawford AuSable School District and serve its students.
Roger Kesseler, a director and co-chairman for the foundation’s fundraising committee, said that scholarships are not just for college bound students.
“It’s not just four years of college,” said Kesseler, a 1954 Grayling High School graduate. “It can include certifications and technical schools. It depends on the person who is donating money and what their desires are.”
Once polices for the foundation were in place, members started working on a database in order to contact alumni from the school district. One issue they faced was obtaining accurate and up-to-date contact information.
“We were back to doing this from scratch,” Kesseler said. “I call it pick and shovel work, and we’re getting there.”
A steering committee was also formed to help with building the database and soliciting donations for the foundation.
“Once they agreed to be on the steering committee, they felt compelled to make a donation,” Kesseler said.
To date, the foundation has received $368,000 in donations and pledges of support.
“That is a fair sum of money for a fledging organization,” Kesseler said.
Over the next two years, foundation members hope to raise $1 million, so that scholarships and grants can be awarded from the interest that the foundation’s fund balance generates.
“That’s going to be a challenge, but we think it’s doable,” Kesseler said.
Some highlights of achievements that staff and students have obtained, which foundation representatives use when educating alumni about its efforts include:
• The College Board named the Crawford AuSable School District as an Advanced Placement Honor Roll recipient – one of only 15 high schools in Michigan and the only one in northern Michigan.
• The Bridge Magazine recognized Grayling High School as one of 44 high schools to be designated as a 2015 Academic State Champ based on an analysis for three years to test scores and factoring family income.
• U.S. News & World Report listed Grayling High School as one of the Best High Schools every year since 2012 as one of the top 1,000 high schools in the U.S.A.
• Grayling High School was named to Newsweek’s “Beating the Odds: Top High Schools for Low-Income Students” 2015 list, which identifies schools that do an excellent job preparing students for college while also overcoming obstacles faced by those at an economic disadvantage.
“There is something going on here that is extraordinary and it makes it an easy sell to say we ought to continue to support excellence in education,” Kesseler said.
Roger’s brother, Jim Kesseler, a 1959 Grayling High School graduate and co-chairman for the foundation fundraising committee, said obtaining non-profit status has also been favorable for the foundation.
“Having the contributions become tax deductible gives this a great impetus for the success that we have obtained so far,” Jim said.
Prior to the dinner, tours of the Crawford AuSable School District school buildings will be available from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Academic success, scholarships awarded, Alumni Hall of Fame inductees, and the unveiling of the Canoe Marathon Hall of Fame Mural will take place on the evening of the dinner.
“Basically, it’s to celebrate the good things that we’ve done so far,” said Paul Lerg, the chairman of the foundation’s board of directors.
Up to date information regarding the foundation can be found at casdk12.net/foundation/.
“It’s just another example of the good things that are happening here in Grayling,” said Lerg, who served the Crawford AuSable School District for 33 years as a teacher, business manager, and assistant superintendent.
The cost for the dinner is $25 for a single reservation and $45 for a couple.
Reservations can be made by contacting Anne Branch at (989) 344-3752 or at casdk12.net/foundation/activities. The deadline for reservations is Friday, Aug. 25.