Like a lot of families in Ashburn, Virginia, I was looking forward to Friday night’s “Battle of the Burn.” Two high school football teams — Stone Bridge and Broad Run — were set to compete for the first time in seven years. The pre-game hype had been going on for weeks, so I wasn’t surprised to see an overcrowded parking lot and packed stands on both sides of the field. I was highly impressed with the strong sense of community support for both teams and excited to see that a few Washington Redskin players had come out to watch the game.
My daughter, a Stone Bridge junior, was perched in the student section, my husband was working the concession stands and I joined more than 7,000 neighbors in the bleachers. It didn’t matter if you were wearing Bull Dog blue or Spartan maroon, we were all there to support the neighborhood schools.
The game did not disappoint! Although Stone Bridge left the field at halftime down 24-0, they amazingly came back to beat Broad Run 31-30 in overtime. I was wondering what powerful words Coach Mickey Thompson delivered to these young players at the half to dramatically turn around the game. The next morning, I read in the paper that he said, “This is a football team we have here, but it’s more than that. It’s a family.”
I was inspired by Coach Thompson’s words because, no matter what, we are all part of a greater community. Whether we are 7,000 fans crowded into a football stadium or 1,000 parents responding to a survey, it is important to feel like an integral part of something significant. The greatest part of Friday night’s game wasn’t the football; it was the remarkable sense of community.
The next day, I thought of one of my clients who had said, “A strong public school system is the cornerstone of a strong community.” Don Andorfer is president of the newly resurrected Fort Wayne Community Schools Foundation (FWCSF) in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which is raising funds for Fort Wayne Community Schools to supplement innovation and technology. Like all school districts across the country, Fort Wayne is facing funding challenges and is being forced to do more with less.
I recently managed a survey launch for Fort Wayne Community Schools. Several members of the district and I helped the Foundation create a survey that is reaching out to community members to identify what educational programs matter most to them. The district did an outstanding job communicating with the community prior to the launch of the survey.
Community involvement is vital to school improvement. Don Andorfer wrote an Op-Ed that was published in a local newspaper; the Foundation held a press conference with the support of Superintendent Wendy Robinson, which resulted in numerous newspaper articles; and the local TV news station also did a story. With more than 1,000 responses in the first two days, the FWCSF has plenty of feedback to help direct their funding decisions.
Just as a football game brought the entire Ashburn community together, similarly the Fort Wayne community is joining forces to ensure a better future for all their children.
Want to learn more about the FWCSF? Click to watch a short clip.