By Jackie Quan, President (as published in the November 2023 Somerset Town Journal)
Over a century ago, families from Somerset, Drummond and Friendship Heights came together to advocate for a local school. They understood its importance for their children and benefit for our community. From those seeds of foresight and civic-mindedness grew Somerset Elementary, which is celebrating 95 years as a cornerstone of our neighborhood.
Twenty-nine years ago another group of parents organized to formalize local school support. Founded in 1994, the Somerset Elementary School Foundation (SES Foundation) is a 501c3 charitable organization whose mission is to make investments that improve the well-being of students and promote academic achievement, ensuring that every SES student can reach their full potential.
The Foundation’s impact on the quality of the school has been substantial, with over $1.5 million in grants disbursed to Somerset Elementary School and neighboring disadvantaged schools. The Foundation funds ongoing building and grounds work to ensure the students have high quality facilities. During the pandemic, it was able to nimbly shift and increase food support for families while addressing numerous other new challenges that emerged during this difficult period. Last year, the Foundation supported the creation of a mindfulness room, a calm and nurturing space where students are developing stress management and self care skills. Every year, the Foundation purchases classroom books, subscriptions, innovative learning tools and so much more.
Throughout its history, the SES Foundation has been a conduit of visionary support for our school, raising funds to address critical needs. Between 2003 and 2005 the school underwent a major renovation. During this modernization effort, the Foundation raised $250,000 to finance capital upgrades not covered in the county’s construction budget. About a decade later, the school faced a pressing need for a new outdoor field. When the county denied the school’s funding request, the Foundation and this community worked together to raise $500,000 to build the turf field our students now play on daily.
The Foundation works in partnership with the principal, staff and Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) to continue addressing unmet needs within the school community. It is steered by a Board of Directors composed of nominated parents and community leaders, in addition to the principal, PTA president and a school staff representative. The Foundation is not an endowment or a permanent fund and has no staff. It relies solely on its donors and the volunteer efforts of its dedicated board.
The SES Foundation continues to stand as a testament to the power of this community in advancing education and well-being. As we look ahead, we have some exciting projects on the horizon, including much-needed replacement of the school’s outdated playground. We are so grateful for the strong relationship we have with Somerset residents and the Town of Somerset government. We will keep the neighborhood updated as we move forward. We hope that we can count on your continued partnership and support as we strive to meet our students’ ever-evolving needs.