January 10, 2015

To The Editor:

Reflecting on 2014 and looking ahead, I am particularly thankful to foundations, corporations, and individuals who demonstrated sharing and caring for our Stamford children during the holidays — but we can’t lose sight that we need to continue this generosity throughout the year.

Did you know that in Stamford, 49% of our students qualify for free or reduced price lunch? To put that into perspective, to qualify for free lunch, a family of four must earn less than $24,000 a year or $461 a week.

Children who are growing up in these low income homes, right here in Stamford, live stressful lives. Their families tend to be more transient and often there is a shortage of the bare necessities of life – food, warm clothing, a safe place to live, a bed, dental, medical and mental health care. These families often have to choose between paying rent and buying food, between fixing the car and buying medicine.

The Stamford Public Education Foundation (SPEF) is part of a network of education foundations across the country that supports school districts with a high percentage of low-income students. While SPEF provides programs and services to all the students in the district, we are lazar focused on finding ways to support the students and families that have the least and need the most.

Our goal is for every student in the Stamford Public Schools to graduate from high school ready to succeed: in college, career training or full-time employment. To this end, we provide family literacy nights for Spanish-speaking parents and children, college access and information sessions, career fairs and career presentations, as well as in-school mentoring and tutoring to over 350 struggling middle and high school students.

How can our lofty goal become a reality? It’s only with community partnerships, like the wonderful one we have formed with RBS. Every Wednesday afternoon 30 children in grades 2 to 5 tumble off the bus at RBS headquarters where they are mentored and tutored by RBS employees. These children live in low-income housing two short blocks from the RBS building. As a result of the Next Generation program, homework is being completed, the principal tells us that their behavior at school has improved, and they are experiencing firsthand the opportunities that are available in the work force in Stamford.

RBS also hosts a Work Study program for high school students. At the sessions students learn interview skills, how to build an effective resume, how to manage their personal finances, and how they can prepare academically for a career in the banking industry.

I urge you to follow in the philanthropic, caring footsteps of RBS employees here in Stamford. Become a mentor, read to a child, make a donation. You can change lives by bringing hope, opportunity and possibility to our students and their families. We’re just a call away at 203-965-7733.

Happy New Year,
Sue Rigano
Executive Director
Stamford Public Education Foundation