WEFCE grants make creative ideas a curriculum reality

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Mary Liu

WHS students learn from surgeons and doctors at the Shapiro Center via a WEEFC grant.

Jeffery Asaredanqua, Staff Writer

 For 37 years, Weston parents and families have donated to the Weston Education Enrichment Fund Committee (WEEFC) to raise over eight million dollars to enhance the learning of Weston students from kindergarten to their senior year in high school.

   This funding has allowed Weston Public Schools (WPS) to purchase and implement tools that enhance the materials provided by the annual school budget. 

    “[The WPS budget] goes to teachers’ salary, textbooks, supplies, furniture, and facilities. All the things that keep the building running,” WHS Principal Paul Peri said. “That’s some of the stuff you’re seeing when you’re in a classroom and looking around. That’s what budget money goes to.”

    While this budget therefore covers a wide range of resources needed for teaching and learning,  some teachers and students look for more than what the budget offers and turn to WEEFC to accomplish those goals.

   “A budget is going to cover your books and materials,” said assistant principal Kelly Flynn. “If you want to do something outside that, [WEEFC] would be a way of doing it.”

   For example, in January 2020, WEEFC approved the grant application that paid for Travis Roy to make a presentation as a guest speaker. In 2012, WEEFC approved a grant that installed water bottle fillers across the school. 

   In the last 10 years WEEFC has been responsible for the acquisition of band instruments, cameras, art supplies, and tools needed for science experiments. Moreover, assemblies, guest speakers, out of school trips, clubs, and programs started in WHS often need an investment from WEEFC to work.  To begin this process, a teacher or other applicant needs to fill out an application. 

   “The application process is generally pretty easy. Basically it’s a form for you to explain what you’re looking for support around,” said biology teacher Mary Liu who has received biology grants from WEEFC over 20 times. “They only meet certain times a week so depending on when you submit it you might be waiting for a bit.”

   Most creative ideas require money, so by giving these grants; WEEFC makes it so that teachers don’t have to bury an idea because they don’t have the needed funds.

   “Because I know they will support projects that are worth it, I don’t put a boundary on what I can imagine,” said Liu.

   WEEFC isn’t only for science classes. It has also provided funds towards artistic expression. The year 2020 drew attention to racial injustice in America. WHS art teacher Julie Hom-Mandell developed an idea to help her art students express their response to the historic moment.

   “I wrote WEEFC a grant [proposal] for $5,000  to help fund hiring a mural artist to prep the walls and help us with designing concepts to produce a permanent mural about what freedom means.”

   The mural was built on part of the Mass Central Rail Trail, which is a trail that will run 104 miles across Massachusetts and will end in Boston once it is finished. By helping to fund this work, WEEFC enabled WHS to become the first and only school to have more than one student provide a mural to one of the largest trails in Massachusetts.

   “It’s a gentle reminder of what Weston High School students are capable of doing if given the opportunity,” said Hom-Mandell. “I can take that risk because there’s opportunities with finances [that WEEFC provides].”

   While every school has a budget, the WEEFC program is specific to Weston as a chance for teachers and students to decide on the projects they undertake to enrich the curriculum. The whole program is run by a committee made up of parents supported by WPS administrators.

   “When watching the work that goes into it by the mothers and fathers of the WEEFC committee, it’s clearly time- consuming,” said Flynn.

   To put into perspective, Boston Latin Academy (BLA) is one of the largest schools in Boston. They possess a larger budget mainly due to having over 1700 students last year, but BLA parents and families raised around $40,000 to fund projects outside the school’s budget. Every year, WEEFC raises money at a rate of approximately $150 per student. WHS has over 600 students. This means that in terms of only high school students, Weston families donate to WEEFC at a rate of $90,000 per year. WEEFC strives to distribute these funds each year to worthy enrichment opportunities for students.

    “I was in a Boston system where there was nowhere to go [for additional funding]. We’re very lucky,” said Flynn.