The Community Foundation manages several charitable funds that benefit cultural groups and organizations. In early 2023, the Kutztown Pipe Band, which is made up of students, faculty, and staff from Kutztown University, local students, and community members, requested a grant from the Juniper Fund to buy materials for its Learn About Bagpipes program. The band created this program to promote excitement and enthusiasm for Scottish music and culture.
The band first introduced the program at both Conrad Weiser East Elementary and Conrad Weiser West Elementary. Band members gave demonstrations during assemblies in which students heard songs played on various forms of bagpipes. Laura Sherrod, pipe major of the Kutztown Pipe Band, and Diana Cook, member of the Kutztown Pipe Band and an elementary music teacher, gave these demonstrations. If students had questions, they could get answers from the pipers directly during a special panel called “Ask the Piper.”
Kutztown Pipe Band hopes to expand its educational opportunities to include more adult programming. The first adult event took place at the Kutztown Public Library. Libraries pay a discounted fee to host the Kutztown Pipe Band for educational sessions, while demonstrations are free to schools thanks to the grant funding and the generosity of the members of the Kutztown Pipe Band who volunteer their time to educate students on Scottish history.
The Kutztown Pipe Band began with five piping students in 2017 and now has more than two dozen members.
In 2022, the band started the Learn About Bagpipes program to educate audiences about the instrument and to instill in them a deeper appreciation of Scottish Heritage. The musicians tailor each demonstration to the audience, and describe the history and functionality of the instruments, and play different tunes on different bagpipes.
The Juniper Fund of Berks County Community Foundation was established in 2010 by The Murray Clan Society of North America to support the education, promotion and preservation of the history, heritage and traditions of Scotland.
The fund provides financial support for the following purposes but is not limited to:
The $300 grant from the Juniper Fund to the Kutztown Pipe Band supported the cost of these educational programs, which allowed, and will continue to allow, the Kutztown Pipe Band to offer programs free for schools.
The presence of the Kutztown Pipe Band at local schools and community events carries a transformative power. It sparks curiosity, ignites passion, and inspires young minds to explore the world of music and culture. By funding the band, the Juniper Fund is growing young talent, and offering musicians a chance to engage with a unique form of art.
Teachers across Berks County are finding new ways to keep children engaged in learning by innovating the pre-existing curriculum. Teachers at Mifflin Park Elementary School wanted to help their students who struggle with reading, which may or may not be the result of the student learning English as a second language. By modifying the curriculum with their Stories and Steps Program, teachers were able to make literature more accessible and fun for students who needed extra help.
The Stories and Steps program was created in 2021 to help students get more comfortable with reading and understanding the English language. Students participating in the program were primarily struggling readers, and or in the process of learning the English language. The program had 101 students participate in total. These children walked together while listening to audiobooks of children’s literature.
According to Corinne Brumbach, librarian at Mifflin Park Elementary, and Diane Richards, chief financial officer, students were incredibly responsive to the program. It was reported that 100 percent of the participants wanted to take part in another audiobook club. When asked about the program’s impact on the students, Brumbach and Richards shared quotes from the students.
Has the audiobook helped you? How?
“Yes, I learned new things and I can hear it just like the author wanted it to be heard.”
Do you enjoy listening to audiobooks?
“Yes, I could hear how to say words.”
Because of the program, students developed deeper engagement with the reading material and a stronger interest in reading. In the future, Mifflin Park Elementary hopes to offer the program for the entire school year instead of a portion of the school year.
This project was funded by a mini-grant from the Berks County Association of School Retirees Scholarship and Grant Fund. This fund was created to provide a scholarship to a Berks County senior and mini-grants for classroom projects. To learn more about this fund, visit https://bccf.org/funds/berks-county-association-of-school-retirees-scholarship-and-mini-grant-fund/
In 2021, a $15,000 grant from Berks County Community Foundation to Our Town Foundation supported local arts in Hamburg. With a mission of revitalizing, promoting, and preserving the downtown historic district of Hamburg, Our Town Foundation wanted to reignite arts and culture in the community after the pandemic. The grant paid for performers and art teachers and marketing expenses. Activities included:
Some of these activities were brought back to the community for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Town Foundation suffered financial loss during the pandemic due to the temporary closing of the Strand Theatre and the Art & Crafts Gallery.
The community was very receptive to these planned events and opportunities. Many people took advantage of the art classes in the area. The movie screenings were popular among children and their families, especially movies related to holidays. The Polar Express movie screening around Christmastime sold out completely! With these movie screenings, Our Town Foundation entertained families and children while simultaneously supporting its mission by promoting and using a historical landmark in the town.
Funding for these projects came from our 2021 Special Programs: Berks County Arts & Culture Ramp Up. The goal of this one-time program was to provide grants that would support Berks County’s nonprofit arts and culture organizations as they ramped back up during the fourth quarter of 2021 or 2022. The grant to Our Town Foundation was one of fourteen that was awarded through the program.
A grant to the Mifflin Area YMCA from the Community Foundation’s Russell L. Hiller Charitable Trust Fund supported Y on the Fly, an on-the-move program that promotes health and wellness for local families.
Y on the Fly stopped at different locations in the Governor Mifflin area. Each stop was themed around a different component of health and wellness, such as public safety, physical fitness, creativity, and mental health. The activities at each stop worked to promote family engagement and connection.
For example, activities at the Nutrition Stop included a children’s activity book with nutrition-themed pages such as “Eat Right, Eat Healthy.” Families were encouraged to complete activities like a word search and food log. The children took part in a nutrition relay, where they ran and sorted healthy and unhealthy food. This relay, which used toy food, allowed children to partake in physical activity while applying the new knowledge they’d gained from the activity book.
Hosting this program helped the YMCA educate children about taking care of their health. The YMCA also educated families about different services offered by the YMCA and other community resources.
In the future, the Mifflin Area YMCA hopes to expand this program to reach more families.
The grant that supported this program came from the Russell L. Hiller Charitable Trust Fund. The Russell L. Hiller Charitable Trust Fund was created in 2003 after the passing of Judge Russell L. Hiller. This fund was created with the goal of providing scholarships to Governor Mifflin students, as well as providing funding for programs that will benefit the residents of Governor Mifflin Area School District.
To learn more about the Russell L. Hiller Charitable Trust Fund, visit https://bccf.org/funds/russell-l-hiller-charitable-trust-2/
For more information about the Mifflin Area YMCA, visit https://www.ymcarbc.org/branch/mifflin/
There’s talk sometimes that all is not right with the children, or in the case of a recent op-ed by Pennsylvania Senator Ryan Aument, that all is not right with our public schools. While that doom-and-gloom position may win headlines and votes, it’s far from the reality on the ground, at least here in Berks County. Our school districts are using innovative, creative learning experiences to ensure students have the skills they need to succeed not only in the classroom, but in life.
We recently attended the Governor Mifflin School District’s first-ever Mustang Nation Learning Expo, where teachers and students at every grade level showcased innovation and expertise for the community at large. The visitors at the packed-house event had the chance to experience more than 80 interactive presentations, during which students were eager to share their knowledge on topics ranging from Entrepreneurship in Elementary School to Analyzing AI: Student Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence through a Literary Lens. We even met a group of first graders who have become real experts on Rainbow Trout. Throughout each presentation, at every grade level, students were applying their classroom learning to real world questions and problems.
Contrary to Senator Aument’s assertion that our students are being failed by an “antiquated system … with goals that are no longer relevant,” the Governor Mifflin event demonstrated ways our schools are preparing and motivating students not only to enter today’s workforce, but to be ready for the uncharted jobs of the future in disciplines of science, math, technology, humanities, arts, and beyond.
Teachers and administrators at Governor Mifflin are so determined to ensure their students hit the ground running upon graduation, they’ve become students themselves in the Total Experience Learning® program at Albright College. This groundbreaking teaching methodology supports educators and gives them the tools to transform what could be hum-drum lessons into hands-on, interactive, entrepreneurial learning experiences. There’s a real focus on encouraging students’ organic curiosity and interests to create meaningful engagement.
And, it is not just Governor Mifflin School District. School districts, administrators, and teachers across Berks County, from Reading to Boyertown and beyond, have engaged in Total Experience Learning programs, to ensure that K-12 education in Berks County continues to be relevant and motivating to today’s students, and that the PA Department of Education learning goals are not just met, but exceeded.
A dedication to continuous improvement and lifelong learning is critical not only for our students and teachers, but also for our elected leaders. Senator Aument’s proposal to study the current education system and learn from other systems around the world is admirable. But to start from the premise that all parts of the current system are irrevocably broken and that increased funding is not the answer fails to recognize the stellar achievements of dedicated administrators, teachers, and students across the Commonwealth. Our local schools rise to the challenge of educating our students for a global economy every day, despite being funded at wildly varying levels with little to no regard for the demographic and social make up of their student cohorts.
Rather than simply dismissing all PA public education as broken, the legislature should look at the actual data and do its constitutionally mandated job to provide for a fair and adequate level of school funding so that all children, regardless of their zip code, can achieve the kind of success that we saw at the Mustang Nation Learning Expo.
READING, PA (February 6, 2023) – Berks County Community Foundation and Reading Pride Celebration (RPC) recently distributed the first round of grants from the Reading Pride Celebration Gives Back Fund. The grants support local programs that align with the fund’s mission of promoting diversity, inclusion, and equality in the Berks County area.
The following organizations received grants:
“Our LGBTQ+ youth are the future leaders of our community and we hope that these funds help educators create programs and provide much-needed resources that benefit them while promoting inclusive environments and communities,” said Enrique Castro, Jr, RPC’s Executive Director.
Each grant will be used for outreach, education, and advocacy efforts aimed at creating a more inclusive community for everyone.
“We are delighted to support these organizations through the Reading Pride Celebration Gives Back initiative,” said Cindy Milian, Health and Human Services Program Officer at Berks County Community Foundation. “Their work is essential to promoting equality and understanding in our community, and we are honored to support their mission.”
The Reading Pride Gives Back Fund was created with a portion of the proceeds from the Reading Pride Celebration Festival 2022.
Berks County Community Foundation is a nonprofit corporation serving as a civic leader for our region by developing, managing, and distributing charitable funds to improve the quality of life in Berks County, PA. More information is available at www.bccf.org.
Reading Pride Celebration is an organization that has the mission of promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion by building a community that embraces and supports differences and seeks to eliminate racial oppression, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and other oppression. Every dollar raised through our Pride festival or other fundraising initiatives goes directly back to support our mission and programs.
Media Contact: Erica Caceres, Communication Manager, Phone: 610-685-2231, Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org