What We Do

The Achieve Foundation promotes high-quality education that prepares South Orange-Maplewood School District students for the future. We support our students, families and educators by addressing inequities, inspiring innovation and fostering community.

Our Mission

Champion Excellence

enhancing student experiences through meaningful programs, grants and funding that advance best educational practices

Address Equity

addressing the opportunity gap and unmet educational needs for vulnerable students in the District

Build Community

working with stakeholders (students, families, teachers, administrators, volunteers, community at large) to strengthen and enrich educational experiences

Deliver Solutions

listening to stakeholders, evaluating options, and responding to evolving needs throughout the District
Achieve Team by the Numbers


Volunteer trustees lead Achieve


Part-time staffers carry out the day-to-day work of the organization


The Achieve Foundation is led by a volunteer board of trustees and a professional staff including a part-time executive director and a program manager.

Achieve collaborates with the School District of South Orange & Maplewood, and key stakeholders in the school district are represented on its board.

Board President
Irene Langlois

VP, Communications
Mary Brown

VP, Fundraising
Josh Adler

VP, Strategy
Brad Schenker

Isabelle Felix

Amy Straub

Hilary Jones Danziger
Mary Ellen Dawkins
Brian Glaser
Shona Hendry
Paul Horan
Shonna Horng
Christine Houseworth
Rich Inserro
Dallas Jackson
Taylor Margis-Noguera
Amanda Mazzarella
Joan Ragno
Tawauna Stukes
Katy Walmsley
Olivia Yearns

Superintendent of Schools
Board of Education
PTA Presidents’ Council

Executive Director
Eileen Collins Neri

Program Manager
Shannon Kirk

Donations Manager
Karen Fox Heindl

Deborah Prinz


Achieve is the Local Education Foundation (LEF) for South Orange & Maplewood. What is an LEF?

Local Education Foundations are independent, community-based, non-profit organizations that raise funds from private sources to improve educational programs and facilities in public schools in the wake of strained school budgets.

Why was Achieve established?

The foundation was established in 1987 as the South Orange-Maplewood Education Foundation (SOMEF) by a group of residents who recognized that, with costs and school enrollment rising and state funding declining, our community needed alternatives to help maintain its excellent public schools. In 2010, the foundation adopted the name of its highly-regarded volunteer tutor program, linking all of its programs with one familiar and fitting identity: Achieve!

Achieve raised over $4,500,000 since 1999. How did we do it?
  • Community support: Each year approximately 1000 parents, local residents and alumni provide donations that make up the largest share of Achieve’s annual income of over $300,000. Achieve Honor Roll donors make significant three-year pledges of $1,000 or more to sustain annual programs.
  • Business support: Achieve’s sponsors include many local businesses who want to support public education in the community. Support also comes from larger corporations, often in the formiing of matching gifts from employers.
  • Annual Events and Campaigns: The foundation utilizes several events and campaigns throughout the year to meet it financial goals. Examples included the annual Newstead 5K Race, our year-end appeal, Honor Your Teacher tributes, our spring fundraiser (a Mardi Gras party for the past few years), and the Honor Roll of sustaining donors.
  • Grants: In 2022, Achieve received more than $40,000 from the Orange Orphan Society, Provident Bank Foundation, the AD Philanthropic Fund, the Fraentzel Foundation, and the Haberman Foundation.
  • Take a Seat — CHS Auditorium Renewal: The Achieve Foundation raised $450,000 to help restore the Columbia High School auditorium in 2014. Plaques on the backs of seats feature dedications by donors to graduates, faculty, alumni and others in the rededicated auditorium. Seats are still available for dedication.
How does Achieve distribute its funds?

Guided by its mission statement and strategic plan, the Achieve Foundation Board of Trustees determines the best and highest use of the money it raises each year. Trustees review grant proposals from the district’s educators and distributes funds as part of its initiatives: Educator Grants, the Riecke Teaching Fellowship, the Vanessa Pollock Music Initiative.

What is the Achieve Volunteer Tutor Program (AVTP)?

Established in 1997, the AVTP is funded and administered in partnership with the school district. The program pairs trained adult and teenage volunteer tutors with students in kindergarten through 12th grade, who are referred for extra help by their teacher and counselors. During the 2022-23 school year, the program engaged 337 volunteers to provide academic and social-emoational support to 375 students. Exemplary tutors are nominated for Dubrow Volunteer Awards and Kohl Angelo Awards by their site supervisors, and all tutors are invited to a celebration in early June to thank them for their dedication.

What is Achieve's impact on the community?
  • Achieve raises the bar by adding professional development opportunities for educators, who use Achieve funds to explore new strategies and hone their skills.
  • Achieve addresses the academic achievement gap by supporting learning solutions for every child, providing free extra academic help to stuggling students, and partnering with MAC Scholarship program to provide college essay coaching, mentoring opportunities, and SAT Prep workshops. Poviding equitable solutions and prioritizing the unmet educational needs for vulnerable students in the district is at the core of Achieve’s goals.
  • Achieve acts as an agent for change by supporting educators’ innovative ideas, introducing new pilot programs and adding funds to maximize the educational impact.
  • Achieve adds enrichment opportunities like robotics, cultural appreciation, biotech research equipment, music programs, leveled reading materials, maker spaces, and more. Children at all schools take part in Achieve-funded activities every day.
  • Achieve is a trusted partner for the South Orange & Maplewood Schools, staying attuned to the district’s strategic goals and giving extra support for high-priority initiatives.
  • Achieve builds community between our schools and local residents. We bring people together and work in coordination with stakeholders (students, families, teachers, administrators, volunteers, community at large) to deliever solutions that strengthen and enrich educational experiences.
Are Achieve's Financial Documents Available for Review?

Achieve’s most recent IRS 990 form is available for public review here.

This is one of very few courses that allow kids to build things, to become focused on the stuff of the modern world. Without Achieve, these students would not have this opportunity. You can see it—kids love being in this class and that is a lasting legacy of Achieve’s support.

Allan Tumolillo, founder of the Robotics Club at Columbia High School that led to the addition of robotics classes at the high school, and a former member of the Achieve Board of Trustees

After performing an Intensive Collection Analysis of our library collection, I discovered that 53% of our nonfiction books are outdated, and the average date of publication is 1995 or 27 years old. I am very proud that our school library received $5,000 in February of 2023 to begin this much needed process of rebuilding our outdated non fiction collection.

Lora Tazewell, SOMS Librarian/media specialist, Grant Recipient

We were new to the district and after 2 years of covid, our son needed extra support. That was very quickly identified by the school and we were offered a solution. He has since caught up and is doing great now. Thanks Achieve for all the support this year!

Parent of tutee