Since it was founded in 2007, the Bristol Warren Education Foundation (BWEF) has awarded nearly $300,000 for innovative, high-quality programs that have benefitted students at every school in the district. Each of the past three years, it has awarded more than $50,000; its 2015-16 grants – $55,000 for 22 projects – are the largest in its history.
“We’ve also seeded and developed our own community outreach projects,” explains Adam Ramos, BWEF treasurer, noting that BWEF has initiated both an after-school robotics program in partnership with the Child Opportunity Zone and a district-wide elementary school science fair.
The all-volunteer BWEF has successfully raised money to fund its awards through special events, including its annual Bodacious Bee, a spelling bee for teams of adults that includes a dinner and silent auction, and the Food Truck 5K that features walks and races for students, families, and community members followed by a food truck festival, music, and hot air balloon rides. A twice annual Thank a Teacher program and an annual appeal supplement their fundraising.
But the independent, community-based organization is not resting on its laurels. “We’re working on a strategic plan and developing the next generation of what BWEF will be. We intend for the organization to be around forever,” Adam says, explaining that this endowment is part of their plan. “By having our endowment with the Rhode Island Foundation, we can say we’re with the most well-respected endowment manager in the state. It’s a means of expanding our fundraising reach.”
Adam credits Kara Milner, BWEF’s first chairperson, with founding the organization after becoming aware of other education foundations in Rhode Island, and Jock Hayes, the group’s second (and current) chairperson, “who has given a ton of his time and energy and whose dedication has furthered our mission.”
“We go to great lengths to explain how important public education is to the community, even for people who don’t have children. Education is everything. A community crumbles if it isn’t producing well-educated kids,” Adam states. And BWEF is committed to doing all it can to see that that doesn’t happen.