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'Ladders to Hope celebrates student leaders and donors
 




Summit High School Senior Jacob Bell served as Master of Ceremonies at the Ladders for Hope celebration at the Franklin Theatre sponsored by the Williamson County Education Foundation.

Photos by Brandy Blanton


In a room full of government officials and community leaders, Williamson County Schools seniors were the uncommon pioneers celebrated at the Ladders to Hope celebration Monday night at the Franklin Theatre.

Ladders to Hope is an ACT prep initiative generated as part of the 2014 senior class project with the goal of helping every student graduate with a 21 on the ACT to qualify for the state HOPE scholarship.
 
“You have given me a chance to do something with my life that’s so big that it will impact my life and other students’ lives,” said Summit High senior Jacob Bell, who served as Master of Ceremonies at the 100 to 150- guest event.

The event, presented by the newly formed Williamson County Education Foundation, also recognized and celebrated everyone in the audience who helped make Ladders to Hope a reality – with their names engraved on a glass podium displayed on the theatre stage.

Ladders to Hope allows ACT high-scoring students (21 or higher) to tutor those students who have not yet scored a 21—
And, they earn a laptop while they are doing it, if they meet the criteria.

“Honestly, when seniors approached me with the idea, I was terrified,” Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney told the crowd. “Most senior classes paint a wall, dedicate a bench or plant a tree, but these students wanted to make a permanent mark.

“I am amazed at their vision, leadership, and sense of social justice,” Looney said.

About $200,000 has been raised for the program through community donations combined with funds matched by the business community. About 751 students are enrolled in the program, while about 800 Chrome laptops were purchased through the raised funds by the donors who believe in the project.

Miss Tennessee Shelby Thompson, a Centennial High School and Poplar Grove School alum, even told the crowd how receiving the HOPE scholarship positively impacted her life as a student at University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

WCS high school seniors also shared their experiences with the Ladders to Hope program, while Looney and interim WCEF board chairman Rick Wimberly also spoke at the event.  

Government officials including state representatives, WCS and FSSD school board members, and county commissioners also attended the celebration.

“This has never been done before. Not just in the county or state but anywhere. You are making dreams a reality," Bell told the adults in the room. 

Looney said that he believed that of all the projects that he has been involved with, Ladders to Hope could be the biggest “game changer.”

“Students could walk away with a scholarship in hand instead of just dream about it. Not everyone in Williamson County can afford to go to college unless they get help,” Looney said previously this fall.

About 73 percent of students in the Class of 2014 already qualify for the HOPE scholarship. About 801 – the number of laptops that were purchased – more students need to score a 21 on the ACT for the district to meet their goal. However, as students take the exam, numbers will fluctuate.

Williamson County Education Foundation
The Ladders to Hope initiative also stands as a symbol for more impactful programs of its kind to be introduced throughout the county for years to come – supported by the newly formed Williamson County Education Foundation.
 
The celebration marked the first inaugural program for the WCEF, a nonprofit 501 (c) whose purpose is to help fund the needs of school children and classrooms across the county in Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District.

The foundation was formed to help fill the gaps between districts’ needs and public funding.

“Ladders to Hope shows what can be done when the community pulls together," Wimberly said. 

“Hopefully, it will set the stage for other such projects that help provide the well-rounded, high-quality education that people of Williamson County want, expect, and need. We spend less per pupil than most school systems in the state and even the nation, yet we have superb schools.  This is because of our strong community commitment and excellent teams working at WCS and FSSD.”

The foundation was born of the WCS School Board2011-2017 Strategic Plan, and board member Rick Wimberly was chosen by the board to head the implementation process, which has been in the works for about a year. 

“The foundation was created by the community, not just the school board,” Wimberly said.

“It began as part of the Strategic Plan, which was devised by community input. This community is willing to do what it takes to provide students with the resources and programs that they need. The community has demanded it.”

The foundation’s mission statement is as follows: “To support public education in the Williamson County and Franklin Special School Districts by providing funds and creating partnerships that improve student success and promote community growth.”

Although generated by WCS, Franklin Special School District is also an important part Wimberly said. 

"One of the first decisions that the steering committee made was including all schools in Williamson County.”
Wimberly announced Monday that Julian Bibb will become WCEF Board Chairman effective January 1, 2014. “Julian Bibb is the epitome of philanthropy in this area. He comes on board with excitement, resources and as a strong leader,” Wimberly said.
 
WCEF board members include Brentwood Mayor Betsy Crossley, Judge Jeff Bivins, Susan Graham and Janine Moore (former WCS board members), Matt Magallanes (Westhaven/Southern Land), Richard Ianelli (Vanderbilt), Cathy Cate, Jim McCarten (attorney), Gary Housley, and County Commissioner Brian Beathard. Robert Blair (FSSD board member) and Wimberly serve as non-voting school district representatives on the WCEF board.
 

The foundation’s mission statement is as follows: “To support public education in the Williamson County and Franklin Special School Districts by providing funds and creating partnerships that improve student success and promote community growth.”

Although generated by WCS, Franklin Special School District is also an important part Wimberly said. 

"One of the first decisions that the steering committee made was including all schools in Williamson County.”
Wimberly announced Monday that Julian Bibb will become WCEF Board Chairman effective January 1, 2014. “Julian Bibb is the epitome of philanthropy in this area. He comes on board with excitement, resources and as a strong leader,” Wimberly said.
 
WCEF board members include Brentwood Mayor Betsy Crossley, Judge Jeff Bivins, Susan Graham and Janine Moore (former WCS board members), Matt Magallanes (Westhaven/Southern Land), Richard Ianelli (Vanderbilt), Cathy Cate, Dawn Deitrich, Jim McCarten (attorney), Gary Housley, and County Commissioner Brian Beathard. Robert Blair (FSSD board member) and Wimberly serve as non-voting school district representatives on the WCEF board.
 
 
 

Posted on: 11/5/2013

 
 

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