A Foundation for the Future
A year ago, when the massive Clark County School District (CCSD) prepared to fracture into sub-districts, two Mesquite women separately pondered how to effectively donate scholarship money for Virgin Valley High School (VVHS) seniors. Darlene Nelson had worked tirelessly as a mentor and volunteer in local schools for a number of years. Linda Faas, a community resident, was concerned about making a donation directly to CCSD during a time of administrative reorganization.
A mutual friend heard each woman voice concerns, and quickly told each that they had a potential ally. Darlene and Linda, joined by Maury Putnam, coordinator of the Career and Technical Education programs at VVHS met for lunch to trade ideas. Maury knew the students, and could see that many struggled to fulfill post-high school aspirations for lack of finances. There was certainly common ground to cover.
From that core ideal of helping local teens connect with financial resources, Mesquite Community Education Foundation (MCEF) has formed. MCEF aims to help VVHS seniors afford advanced education, and help the community connect to VVHS and its students.
By casting a wide net, the three initiators of MCEF quickly found community leaders who shared their vision. Dr. Theresa Ofori, mother of school-age children, carved out time from her dental practice to assist MCEF. Dan Wright, Vice President of Bank of Nevada and active community volunteer, stepped up to act as MCEF treasurer. He and Nelson secured nonprofit 501(c)(3) status for the foundation. Shelly Stoiber, a community aide at VVHS, headed a committee to write the organization’s bylaws. In a few short weeks, a strong core group that would lead the foundation was formed.
But how to raise money? How to introduce the community to VVHS students and their dreams? A minimal number of Mesquite’s newer residents pay close attention to the area schools because many are recent retirees who have little family connection to Mesquite. Somehow a bridge needed to be built.
Food and fun are magnetic attractions, so working through Maury’s connections at VVHS, the new culinary arts instructor, Chris Noone, was persuaded to have his students cook a community dinner. MCEF planned to sell tickets to raise scholarship funds. This magic combination turned into the hugely successful March 2017 “Spring Fling.”
Student musicians dazzled the Spring Fling crowd. Abundant raffle prizes, student art sales, and a generous crowd brought in sizable funds. On Awards Night 2017, MCEF presented $1,000 scholarships to eight very deserving seniors headed to trade school and college.
Kickin’ it up a notch, MCEF named “Yee Haw” as its theme for an opening fundraiser. In mid-November, the culinary arts kids rustled up a BBQ chicken dinner with all the down home comfort food trimmings. The awesome student musicians outdid themselves again by learning an entire repertoire of classic Western tunes just for the event. When kids rolled their eyes at the music selections, instructors Marie Palmer and Kendra Graf reminded them the average age of their audience would land somewhere in the Grandma/Grandpa range. The wisdom of the instructors was borne out when the smiling audience members clapped hands, tapped toes, and erupted into applause for every song. Guests were also thrilled to win raffle prizes donated by generous community supporters.
A “Yee Haw” highlight was an all-feet-on-deck line dance led by the VVHS Pep Squad. The fancy footwork of that dance brought on “da agony of de feet,” as this writer limped home.
But sore feet were a small price to pay for the fun and funds raised that evening.
MCEF president Darlene Nelson and her board continue their fundraising work for the class of 2018. Nelson applauds VVHS students and the community for their heart in working hard to help deserving seniors see their way to post-high school education. It is a cause that all can be proud to support. The good that goes around will come around to Mesquite’s young people and their future.
MCEF invites businesses and individuals to make contributions to the 2018 Senior Scholarship Fund. Call Darlene at 406-431-1181, or contact MCEF Treasurer Dan Wright at Bank of Nevada, 702-346-6600, to get involved. To make a direct scholarship donation, checks may be made to MCEF, c/o Dan Wright, Bank of Nevada, 11 W. Pioneer Blvd., Mesquite, NV 89027. Donations are tax deductible to the extent of the law.
MCEF Board, 2017-2018
Darlene Nelson, President
Maury Putnam, VP
Dan Wright, Treasurer
Linda Faas, Publicity
Michelle Stoiber, Bylaws
Theresa Ofori, Community Relations
Jon Putnam, Art Director
Ryan Toone, Legal Consultant
Justin Ludvigson, Fundraising
Yori Ludvigson, Fundraising
Clifford Hughes, VVHS Principal, Advisor