Celebrating 25 years of
supporting education in Berks County
This video provides a glance at $9 million in scholarships we have awarded over 25 years to support increasing educational attainment.
Technology is transforming education in Berks County
School districts in Berks County have spent millions of dollars on technology to shift students from consuming content to producing content. The next decade will pivot them toward honing that content to increase their impact on their communities and the world.
Local journalist Anthony Orozco delved into this topic for us.
As part of our anniversary celebration, we wanted to continue making an impact on the community while also reflecting on the past, present, and future of important issues.
So we are funding a variety of information projects at BerksVitalSigns.com. The first was an independent poll of Berks voters regarding Berks Heim, the county-owned nursing facility. The second was a report on hunger in Berks County.
Two more information projects are underway on these themes: the environment, and the economy.
Our scholarships are made possible by the generosity of donors.
The donors can contribute to existing scholarships or they can create a new one to honor a loved one or simply to help increase educational attainment among Berks County residents.
We’re inspired by both kinds of donors.
When twin sisters Molly and Nadine were preparing to graduate from Governor Mifflin in 2009, they wanted to go to college but were afraid that they couldn’t afford it.
“We didn’t have any family to help us pay for school,” Molly recalled. “We needed a lot of financial help to be able to go.”
The sisters each received several scholarships from Berks County Community Foundation.
In 2018, Molly finished paying off her student loans and wanted to do something with the extra cash she had on hand each month.
“I’ve always donated money to charities, and since I had a little room in my budget, I wanted to do something with it,” Molly said.
She contacted us to see how she could give back and began making monthly contributions to one of the scholarship funds that helped her. A year later, she increased the amount of her donation.
“I think it’s important for people to realize that, even if you can’t create a scholarship yourself or donate thousands of dollars, any small amount you can give can support a scholarship for others,” Molly said. (Read more about Molly’s story here.)
Then there are donors like James A. Gilmartin, who served as superintendent in many Berks County school districts, with his longest term of employment in the Hamburg Area School District.
With his own past service as an ambulance attendant and as a volunteer firefighter, Gilmartin decided to establish the James A. Gilmartin Paramedic Scholarship Fund of Berks County Community Foundation.
Classroom Mini-grant Program
Berks County Community Foundation’s annual classroom mini-grant program has been funding innovative ideas in area classrooms for years.
For instance, the program purchased pedal cycles for the Brandywine Heights Elementary School classroom of second-grade teacher Katie Hess.
In her application for the grant, Hess wrote: “Recent studies have shown that people, almost immediately after exercising, are better able to concentrate and ignore distractions.” After putting the cycles in her classroom, Hess said she noticed improvements in students’ mood, behavior and academic performance.
Conrad Weiser Science Research Institute Fund
The Conrad Weiser Science Research Institute Fund provides unique opportunities and equipment for students at Conrad Weiser High School to further their study of science.
They have students who are working on projects that are so unique that they are in talks with a patent attorney. They’re also engaging in research that is more commonly found at universities and cutting-edge companies.
“If you allow students to follow their passions, they come up with ideas and start researching, and then they have time to perfect their ideas,” Schade said.
“We think we could be the hub for high-level science education in Berks County,” Schade said.
The teachers have a goal that is even more grand: to greatly impact the county economy.
“Students are doing amazing things, and some of them may go off to college and learn more, and then come back here and start their own companies,” Schade said.
Berks County Community Foundation has been the sponsor for Reading Eagle Company’s Berks’ Best scholarship program, which celebrated its 19th year in 2019.
Berks’ Best began as a way to highlight the teenagers in our community who study, work and share their talents without media attention. We’re honored to have dedicated judges who come from local businesses, community organizations and colleges. Selecting winners from such a group of outstanding high school students has been an exciting and challenging task.
The Berks’ Best recipients have been recognized at the Community Foundation’s annual Scholarship Luncheon.