Coming Together for Community Schools

There are some days you wake up and are proud and thankful for where you work. The day we found out OfficeMax had chosen to partner with United Way on a community school grant was one of those days. I have had the pleasure of working with OfficeMax on their philanthropic initiatives for the past several years. One thing that has always been prominent in the conversations with them is that they truly understand the value of a good education. That is why, as part of their corporate responsibility commitment, they invest in programs that support education and teacher development. One day, United Way of DuPage/West Cook was able to share with them our LIVE UNITED 2020 vision and our investment in community schools within our education focus area. Coincidentally, the OfficeMax Foundation was gearing up to make one of their largest philanthropic investments into a school sponsorship. Recognizing United Way’s expertise in identifying community needs and delivering results, OfficeMax chose to invest in United Way’s Berwyn community school initiative with a $1million, 3 year investment to Freedom Middle School. The drive and devotion of the Principal Jim Calabrese to his students at Freedom Middle School inspired OfficeMax as well as United Way staff. He is the reason his school was chosen for this grant, and OfficeMax wanted to do something special to announce this partnership. During a meeting to discuss the United Way grant, OfficeMax was able to present Principal Calabrese with the check for $1million. Needless to say, he was surprised, excited, grateful and overwhelmed with the commitment from OfficeMax. Principal Calabrese has said they will achieve the results they put forth in the proposal with our without the grant money. This is the attitude that secured the grant for this school from OfficeMax and the grant will enable them to reach their goals that much quicker. During this whole process, I have been privileged to work with some of the most caring, dedicated individuals on all sides. This grant is one huge leap in the right direction for investing in education and I am proud to have had a part in it. I hope that with this money, Freedom Middle School is able to provide the highest quality classroom and extracurricular learning to their students. I know that the school has staff and faculty who are committed to providing their students with the best education, OfficeMax has the resources necessary to see this through, and United Way has the knowledge and leadership to keep this initiative on track. Because of this, I believe this community school has all it needs to prepare the students of Freedom Middle School for success in high school. This is just one example of corporate and community partners coming together to invest in community change. This grant and the enthusiasm of everyone involved has inspired me to look to a brighter future for education. My hope is that this investment will strengthen the community of Berwyn and will serve as a model to be replicated throughout our region. Investing in the learning of our kids is investing in those who will one day be our neighbors, co-workers and leaders. Investing in our kids is investing in our future. I thank Freedom Middle School, OfficeMax and United Way for their commitment to education. Posted on behalf of Laura Olson, Fundraising Manager at United Way of DuPage/West Cook.

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