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Rowan Partners for Education to host fundraiser

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan Partners for Education is back, and the people behind it have some big dreams.

While the local educational advocacy organization got a makeover in May with a new board and new resources, it will be hosting its first fundraiser on Oct. 22.

Rowan Partners for Education began a number of years ago when Paul Fisher, former CEO and chairman of F&M Bank, and a group of forward-thinking business owners and community members saw the need for an organization to provide support and funding for Rowan-Salisbury Schools. Fisher said that, at the time, schools and teachers were struggling.

“Teacher morale was not the best, because at times they felt they were on an island unto themselves and not fully appreciated,” he wrote in an e-mail.

The foundation was formed to provide “tangible support” to teachers. Back then, it was known as the Rowan-Salisbury Education Foundation. Fisher said he felt that improving opportunities and strengthening education was a way to strengthen the community and solve issues.

“Education is the common denominator for the success for any community, anytime and anyplace,” Fisher wrote. “Education is the very fuel that powers and drives economic development, job creation and quality of life. Education is the single most important component in the community’s effort to reduce poverty and crime in our county. … Supporting education is the only way our community, or any community, can move forward and thus improve quality of life for all.”

This year, Rowan Partners for Education joined hands with the IMPACT Fund — a similar group started by Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody.

“It’s been making a difference for quite a while,” Jon Steele, new board member of Rowan Partners for Education, said.

Jon and wife Susan took over the foundation in May at Moody’s request, and have been working on revamping it ever since. The fundraiser, a “Clubs and ‘Cue for Kids” golf tournament sponsored by Novant Health and a dinner sponsored by F&M Bank, is to raise enough money to fund a year’s worth of “mini-grants.”

This year, the foundation helped sponsor the school system’s Summer Reading Challenge — which awarded prizes to two students from every district school who read a book and submitted a summary. Now they’re moving on to the next step.

When a teacher comes up with a creative or innovative idea — be it maker spaces or a system-wide project — they may find that their wallets and pockets are empty. That’s where the foundation comes in. Teachers can submit their ideas to Rowan Partners for Education for a chance to be funded with a mini-grant.

Susan said she and other board members are looking for innovative ideas that really break the mold — ones could take students to the next level. They’ve been collecting applications for a while now, and are in the process of going through each proposal.

“We’ve had some really amazing submissions,” she said.

The fundraiser will feature a list of projects, and the Steeles hope that attendees will take a look and see if they’d like to personally fund a project.

In addition to raising funds, the two hope to bridge the gap between community and classroom. They’re on the cusp of the foundation’s first major fundraiser, but are already planning other ways to strengthen ties — including a literacy program.

For the Steeles and other members of Rowan Partners for Education, it’s not just about giving money — it’s about community members being able to “plug in” somewhere they have a passion.

“Whatever their passion is, we hope we can sort of be the conduit,” Jon said.

And it benefits more than just the teachers — it will have a positive effect on students, as well. Jon hopes that, through the foundation, students will grow knowing that they’re surrounded by a community that supports and cares for them.

“I think that’s vital to a community,” he said.

The fundraiser will begin at 1:30 p.m. at Warrior Golf Club, 1300 Lake Wright Road, China Grove. Registration begins at 12:30 p.m. There are still spots open for the dinner and tournament. Tournament tickets are $75 per person. Dinner will be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 1045 Lake Wright Road, China Grove. Dinner tickets are $50 per person. RSVP to the Rowan Chamber of Commerce, info@rowanchamber.com.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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