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South Salt Lake Journal

Granite Education Foundation celebrates 30 years supporting students and community

Dec 17, 2018 10:11AM ● By Lindsey Baxter

School food pantry. (Courtesy of Brooke Porter)

By Lindsey Baxter | l.baxter@mycityjournals.com

What started off as a small group of concerned educators, parents, philanthropists and community members in 1988 — who got together because they knew the needs were growing within their school district and they couldn’t use tax dollars from the district to help meet those needs — is now celebrating its 30th anniversary. 

The Granite Education Foundation is ranked amongst the top 15 education foundations in the United States. Over the last 30 years, the Granite Education Foundation has provided over $500,000 in grants to assist teachers in the classroom (Cash for Classroom grants). This year was a record year for the program providing $50,565 in grants to 47 teachers.

Brooke Porter, the marketing and communications director for the Granite Education Foundation, has been in this role for over a year now. “One thing that we try to focus on is giving to students or kids a hand up. And the way we do that is through a variety of programs and some of the programs include programs for the educators because we believe that the educators need help in order to be able to give our kids a hand up,” Porter said.

"So many of our kids in our district are facing so many difficult needs, especially when it comes to having basic needs, like food and clothing and so there is a lot that needs to be done to give our kids a hand up. To see outside the circumstances they have and be able to do what we can while they are here in Granite School District,” Porter said.

Brent Severe, CEO of the Granite Education Foundation, has been in the role for over five years. 

“Our direct services that we offer sets us apart from other education foundations in the state,” Severe said. “There is no middle man in between the need and us. With a lot of other agencies, there are different levels that you have to go through to get the services that the families need, but with us, it’s direct. We find about a need and within 24 hours the families and students are being helped.” 

Severe points out that the school administrator and/or social worker contact the foundation and they get right to work getting the needs of the student met.

“Sixty-five percent of our students are at or below poverty and we have over 160 languages and dialects spoken. We are one of the most diverse districts in the state of Utah,” Severe said. We also serve 70 percent of the state’s refugee population. So with those numbers there comes all kinds of challenges, we don’t look at them as challenges, we look at them as opportunities. So, we can provide for their basic needs so they can attend school ready to learn, and it’s a win-win for everyone involved.” 

Severe said a couple of things make his job worthwhile. He can go home at night and he may not have met the student or the family but knows the foundation made a difference in someone’s life. “Another rewarding part is seeing the generosity of the community, the donors and the corporations wanting to make a difference,” he said. 

Another aspect that sets GEF apart, Severe said, is that “100 percent of whatever is donated goes to directly what it is needed to…Our donors appreciate that too and we are very transparent about that as well. If they say they want one dollar going to Moss Elementary, one dollar will go to Moss Elementary.” 

The organization has grown much since the beginning and now includes holiday assistance, scholarships and student aid. There are also food pantries in schools as well as a mobile food pantry. 

All funding for these comes from the events they hold throughout the year. The teacher grants are mostly sponsored by the annual golf tournament called Fore Kids Golf Tournament. The next golf event is July 11, 2019. The Granite Education Foundation holds a variety of events throughout the year to raise money to continue to help fund grants for teachers and help students and families on a daily basis.

Another annual fundraiser is the Excel Awards which honors the top educators for the year. Different sponsors within the community will sponsor tables. The Excel Awards will be held April 12, 2019.

This time of the year keeps everyone busy by assembling the Santa Sacks together. Families within the community help put these sacks together as a way to give back. Other opportunities include Sub for Santa or the Angel Tree project.

The Granite Education Foundation is always looking for more volunteers and donations. If companies want volunteer opportunities, they can contact the Granite Education Foundation at 385-646-KIDS (5437).