The WiSH Education Foundation received a donation for $100,000 this week from the Steve Y. Kim Foundation, a nonprofit that helps to fund much-needed programs for the underserved and disadvantaged, for students in the William S. Hart Union High School District.
In her efforts to fundraise for the organization, Executive Director Amy Daniels reached out to Kim, local businessman and philanthropist, hoping to introduce him to WiSH and all it does for the local community.
“He didn’t know much about WiSH or how much we impact our students and greater community,” Daniels said. “He was quite surprised when I shared some of our important programs, and specifically, what our COVID response has been.”
The Hart district serves 22,400 students in grades 7-12 in the Santa Clarita Valley, including seven comprehensive high schools and six junior highs and, of those, seven are Title-I schools, with high numbers of socioeconomically disadvantaged populations.
In 2019, 30.8% of the student population in the Hart district was reportedly socioeconomically disadvantaged, 6.7% of whom were English language learners and nearly 400 were homeless, per reported data.
Since the pandemic began, these numbers have risen dramatically, with the number of requests for assistance coming in to WiSH and those taking advantage of the district food programs illustrating the vital need for programs.
In addition to funding school supplies, including library books, microscopes and art supplies, among other things, WiSH programs include funding 11 wellness centers at campuses across the district, a computer program, which distributed more than 11,500 Chromebooks so kids in need could complete distance learning, and a desk program, which has provided an at-home work space for 187 students.
After hearing that one of her students was thankful to have been able to come back to campus simply so he could work at a desk, it sparked the thought for Canyon High School English teacher Laurel Priesz that this need may be more widespread.
“Students have come back to say that just having a chair or a desk has helped with their back support because they were in bed, hunched over and their backs were hurting, and it just makes them feel more focused with school having their laptop on a hard surface and somewhere to put their books,” Priesz said.
Priesz worked with WiSH and district officials to distribute around 100 student desks that were in storage in the district warehouse to students, with WiSH then purchasing foldable tray tables and chairs for those who didn’t have room for desks at home.
“I feel very fortunate to be working with Amy and WiSH because they really have mobilized so quickly,” Priesz added. “As soon as we had this idea and the desks were available … volunteers have come every other weekend, loaded up their cars (and) driven them out to people’s homes. It’s wonderful.”
It’s programs like this that Kim’s donation are expected to help fund.
“We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of Mr. Kim on behalf of his foundation, The Steve Y. Kim Foundation,” Daniels added. “It’s a game changer for WiSH and who we support. We encourage people who are in a position to support our community to go to to find out more and donate.”