It would be almost trite to call the East Wake Education Foundation a labor of love.
And, yet, that’s very much what it is for the people who have invested their time, money and effort into the organization.
At the very top of that heap of people is Linda Johnson, the foundation’s founder and director. Ever since she left her seat on the Wake County Board of Education, Johnson has never let her desire to educate children waver. She has worked days, nights and weekends searching for resources to keep the program going, cajoling people to volunteer at the center, looking for bright minds to work directly with the children and, yes, working with those children herself.
Johnson would be the first to point out that any successes have resulted from a group effort. Her long-time second in command, Shannon Speller, shares Johnson’s vision for helping nurture young learners. Harold Broadwell served for many years as president of the agency’s board of directors, even as he served a time-consuming stint as Wendell’s mayor. And John Lewis has opened his pocketbook on more than one occasion to provide the financial resources that make the organization successful. Many others have contributed along the way.
The East Wake Education Foundation is more important than most of us realize. Yes, we go to their Stars in the East fundraiser, especially when our own children are participating. Yes, we kind of like that quirky golf ball drop every year at the Wendell Harvest Festival. But for the most part, the East Wake Education Foundation does its work out of the spotlight. Children of all demographics can benefit from the time spent at the center. As they learn and grow smarter, that benefits everyone – even students who never darken the door of the foundation’s office on Fourth Street in Wendell.
But imagine the time saved in kindergarten and first-grade classrooms all around eastern Wake County by teachers who don’t have to remediate children from the moment they step into the classroom.
Imagine how that frees a teacher up to move an entire class of students forward in their learning. Imagine how that teacher can spend the extra time working with other children who need to be challenged.
On Thursday, the East Wake Education Foundation celebrated its 20th year of operations. It’s been a challenging 20 years for those closest to the program. But it’s been full of rewards, too. And, as the children who participate benefit, so to does the rest of the community.
Here’s hoping the next 20 years hold even more great things for the East Wake Education Foundation.