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 priorities are to:
- 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: bringing together and working in coordination 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 is a registered, tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization.
Jennifer Wallace Grady
Mary Ellen Dawkins
Immediate Past President
Jenifer Steig Strugger
Hilary Jones Danziger
Superintendent of Schools
Board of Education
PTA Presidents’ Council
Eileen Collins Neri
Karen Fox Heindl
We take the loyal support that Achieve receives, even during tough economic times, as a resounding vote of confidence from our community that inspires us to reach greater heights.
Frequently Asked Questions
- WHAT IS A LOCAL EDUCATION FOUNDATION (LEF)?
- LEFs are independent, community-based non-profit 501(c) (3) organizations that raise funds from private sources to improve educational programs and facilities in public schools. LEFs exist nationwide in communities where residents are moved to take the steps necessary to ensure rich, high-quality public education in the face of strained local school budgets. In 2017, the Achieve Foundation provided nearly $400,000 to the district, or $57 per student, more than twice the industry standard for per-student spending by a LEF.
- 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!
- HOW DOES OUR ORGANIZATION WORK?
- The work of the Achieve Foundation is carried out by a board of trustees and many other volunteers, with a small part-time staff consisting of an executive director and a program coordinator.
- ACHIEVE RAISED OVER $4,000,000 FROM 1999 TO JUNE 2018. HOW DID WE DO IT?
- Community support: Each year more than 1,100 parents, 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 D&I Fitness, the Pollock Properties realty team at Keller Williams, The Able Baker, Anthony’s Landscaping and many other local businesses. More support comes from large corporations like Edrington, Regent Atlantic and Qualcomm, as well as matching gifts from American Express, BlackRock, Goldman Sachs, Google, Prudential, and more.
- Annual Events and Campaigns: In 2017, the foundation raised $250,000 from its fundraising initiatives: Night of 100 Dinners, Newstead 5K Race, Annual Appeal, Honor Your Teacher tributes, Direct Teacher Grant Funding and the Honor Roll of sustaining donors.
- Grants: Achieve receives more than $25,000 annually from the Orange Orphan Society, Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation, the Haberman and Fraentzel Foundations and other family foundations.
- Take a Seat — 2014 CHS Auditorium Renewal: The Achieve Foundation raised $450,000 to help restore the Columbia High School auditorium. Achieve’s funds took the school district’s renovation of the historic hall to a complete restoration. Plaques on the backs of 800 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?
- Every year, the Achieve Foundation Board of Trustees determines the best and highest use of the money it raises, guided by its mission to support outstanding, innovative education for all students and staff. Trustees review grant proposals from the district’s educators and distributes funds as part of its initiatives: Teacher Grants, the Riecke Teaching Fellowship, Administrator Grants, the District Partnership and the Vanessa Pollock Music Initiative. From 1999 to 2018 Achieve invested $4,000,000 in the schools on projects like:
- The Achieve Volunteer Tutor Program
- Teacher and Administrator Grants
- Riecke Teaching Fellowship
- Technology: Computers, tablets, document cameras, robotics kits and more
- CHS Auditorium Restoration
- Vanessa Pollock Music Initiative
- Achieve also administered the Beyond the Bell elementary after school program during its pilot phase. The district-wide program now serves over 500 students.
- 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 over 300 trained adult and teenage volunteer tutors with more than 300 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, who are referred for extra help by their teachers. Achieve volunteers work with students for at least eight consecutive weeks per year, yielding a total of more than 3,000 hours of free tutoring annually. Exemplary tutors receive Dubrow Volunteer Awards and Kohl Angelo Awards at the annual volunteer appreciation event.
- WHAT IS THE TEACHER GRANT PROGRAM?
- Every fall, the Achieve Foundation invites district teachers to apply for grants for innovative classroom projects in all subject areas. Since 1999, Achieve has awarded 989 teacher grants, totaling almost $1,000,000 across all ten schools. Teacher Grants have introduced new written and electronic resources, explored alternative learning modalities, advanced hands-on STEAM education, promoted inter-disciplinary studies and more. Community members can contribute directly toward Achieve Teacher Grants by donating to Direct Grant Funding in December and January and Honor Your Teacher and Staff in the spring.
- WHAT IS THE RIECKE TEACHING FELLOWSHIP?
- Michelle T. Riecke Teaching Fellowships of $3,000-$5,000 are awarded to teachers annually for summer professional development programs. Fellows share their newly-acquired knowledge and skills with colleagues the following year. The endowed program has provided 31 fellowships at highly regarded institutions for 57 teachers, totaling $74,430 since 2004. Fellowships have supported programs in Differentiation of Instruction, Computer Assisted Design (CAD) Technology, Lucy Calkins Reading and Writing Instruction, College Board Training, Restorative Practices and much more.
- WHAT IS THE VANESSA POLLOCK MUSIC INITIATIVE?
- Vanessa and Charlie Pollock and Vanessa’s local Keller Williams Midtown Direct Realty team raise funds annually to expand music education opportunities in the district, especially for economically disadvantaged students. The VPMI pays for private instruction and instruments for exceptional music students, contributes to the upkeep of the district’s instrument inventory and provides scholarships for instrument rentals.
- WHAT IS THE DISTRICT PARTNERSHIP?
- At the request of the superintendent of schools, Achieve has provided $5,000 – $15,000 for special projects that have a district-wide impact. District Partnership funds have supported a three-year pilot program for Beyond the Bell (a school-wide elementary after school program), strategic planning initiatives, comprehensive fitness and social-emotional education programs, and more. A prime example of the partnership’s potential is the 2011 grant, which paid for the district’s first robotics team, resulting in today’s highly popular, award-winning program and the addition of robotics and electronics courses at the high school.
- WHAT IS THE ACHIEVE FOUNDATION'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 extra academic help and ensuring that all children can benefit equally from the latest technology.
- 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, biotech research, music programs, leveled reading materials, maker spaces at every school, digital literacy practice for young children, community wellness fairs, Model UN 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. Resourceful administrators and teachers often approach Achieve to discuss ways to collaborate on new initiatives.
- Achieve forges bonds between our schools and the community. As an advocate for the local public schools, Achieve raises awareness of teachers’ ingenuity and initiative. Donors see their dollars at work, supporting first-class education. Achieve relies on the scores of volunteers who carry out its work and values its partnerships with businesses, community organizations and local colleges.
- I HAVE MORE QUESTIONS. HOW CAN I GET ADDITIONAL INFORMATION?
- Contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 973-378-2055.
Annual Programs We Fund
How We Raise Funds
“What makes me happy is that, no matter the party, I have received a flood of messages from guests and hosts saying how they truly had such a terrific evening.”
Lindsay Scott, 2014 coordinator of the annual Night of 100 Dinners fundraising event and member of the Achieve Board of Trustees
“Yet again, Achieve has proven what a valuable organization it is to teachers and students alike.”
Susan Brody, fourth-grade teacher at Seth Boyden Elementary School and an Achieve Teacher Grant recipient
“There are these special moments, when working with young kids, when their faces suddenly light up, like something finally clicked.”
Zoë Crutcher, student tutor in the Achieve Volunteer Tutor Program
“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 member of the Achieve Board of Trustees
“Achieve tutors and students make miracles happen together by reading one sentence at a time and solving one math problem at a time, week in and week out.”
Sonoko Setaishi, adult tutor in the Achieve Volunteer Tutor Program