By Charles Petty
The Lee County Education Foundation has for years been a key player in making sure local public schools have the supplies they need and extra funds for whatever various needs arise.
On Thursday, in the lobby of W.B. Wicker Elementary School, the Foundation and the Ruby and Ernest McSwain Worthy Lands Trust made another substantial cash gift to each of Lee County’s public schools – $10,000 to the eight elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools, as well as $5,000 each to Lee Early College, Bragg Street Academy, the Floyd L. Knight Children’s Center, and Warren Williams Alternative Elementary.
“Giving a good education to students will make them good citizen as well as good citizens and employees,” said LCEF board member Susan Keller. “We love to see our students succeed and go on to become active members of our community.”
Around 60 people attended Thursday’s event, including members of the Foundation, the Lee County Board of Education, various educators, and school staff.
The Foundation was formed with the mission to improve education in Lee County for both the betterment of the students and staff. Members of the board include people with Lee County Schools as well as leaders in business and local government. The Foundation is perhaps best known for its “Head of Class” project, which rewards the district’s school best-performing elementary school with a $50,000 cash gift split among all of that school’s faculty and staff.
The key speaker before the presentation of checks was former Lieutenant Governor Dennis Wicker, a member of the Foundation. He opened up with a story about his reasons for joining.
He recalled an afternoon in 1961 when his mother took him to the General Assembly to see his father – then a member of the legislature – debate increasing revenue for public education in North Carolina with a food tax.
“My father stood up for three hours and took the most abuse you have ever seen from his colleagues,” Wicker recalled. “The very idea that we would pass a tax to help educators and our children – they did not stand for it. They grilled him for it, but he never faltered.”
That memory stayed with Wicker all of his life. Having raised three children in Lee County, he said he understands the need for well-funded public schools.
“I hope the biggest legacy the Foundation can establish is how people can come together for the greater good. I am confident that the Foundation is going to become a bigger force in helping our children succeed,” he said. “I believe this Foundation will be a clear example of how, by working together, we can achieve not only the greater good, but something that will change lives for the better for generations to come.”
Visit the Lee County Education Foundation’s website for more information.