School wasn’t in session Friday morning, but Lynnwood High School’s gym was filled with hundreds of adults who came to support the Foundation for Edmonds Public Schools’ work on behalf of Edmonds School District students and teachers.
At the end of the annual fundraising breakfast, prepared and served by students from Lynnwood and Meadowdale high schools, more than $77,000 was raised; $6,000 more than last year’s breakfast, according to Foundation Executive Director Deborah Anderson.
The funds will go toward a variety of foundation initiatives, including after-school study programs, teacher grants to support academic enrichment, financial assistance for PSAT/PLAN test fees and tuition for “College in the High School,” which allows high school students to take college-level courses; and post-secondary scholarships. The foundation also provides through its Nourshing Network after-school and weekend meals to homeless students in the school district.
The crowd heard from two inspiring breakfast speakers: Mountlake Terrace High School senior and aspiring biochemist Haeley Johnston, who talked about the district’s efforts to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs, and Edmonds District Superintendent Nick Brossoit, who recalled the teachers who made a difference in his life.
Johnston, who just completed her term as president of the Technology Student Association’s Washington State Chapter, is headed to Washington State University this fall to study biochemistry. While at the national TSA conference in Dallas last year, Johnston was chosen from among 234,000 TSA student members to receive the organization’s highest honor: the Dr. Bob Hansen Distinguished Student Award.
“You could say I was born determined,” Johnston said in her speech to breakfast attendees. “I was born three months premature and was barely just under 2 pounds, so I had to fight for my life when I was born. I was so tiny, that my dad’s wedding ring fit past my elbow and he could hold me in the palm of his hand. I eventually ended up going home earlier than expected because I was so determined.”
Johnston is one of five students statewide to be selected as the Washington Scholars in Career and Technical Education, which also makes her a semi-finalist for the 2016 U.S. Presidential Scholarship. Each year, up to 161 students are named as Presidential Scholars, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students.
“I’m determined to apply the lessons I’ve learned in the Edmonds School District in college and in my future career,” Johnston said.
Superintendent Brossoit, who is retiring at the end of the school year after 12 years leading the district, asked attendees to think about their life story, going back to their grade school or high school years. “Sometimes other people write on your pages and some of those things are positive and some are not so positive” he said.
Brossoit recalled how several educators made a positive impact on his own life story, including Marty O’Brien, his seventh-grade PE teacher at Ephrata Junior High School. Brossoit was going through hard times at home, including his parents’ divorce, and recalled O’Brien telling him after class one day that “‘you can use the power of good choices to make different decisions, and you don’t have to be a victim of what’s happening at home in your life.”
“It was really a profound thing,” Brossoit said. “It was kind of a challenge and an awakening for somebody who was only a seventh grader.”
Brossoit also recalled O’Brien telling him that he was spending time with other students who “aren’t going to be good for you in your future. And he was right. I was hanging out with kids who I guess you’d call a gang by today’s terminology,” Brossoit said. “Fast forward, about half the kids in that gang didn’t survive — didn’t literally live — past high school, either from traffic-related accidents or drug-related accidents or all of the above.”
“And his conversation with me that day, caused me to think about what was I going to do,” Brossoit added.
“Believe it or not, when somebody believes in you and you don’t believe in yourself, it starts you to think differently about yourself,” Brossoit said. “Think of your story. Who were the teachers, who were the coaches, who were the significant adults in your life that wrote on your pages? Maybe there were experiences that weren’t so positive but you get to put them in perspective when you look at the whole book.”
Brossoit praised the schools foundation’s work during the past 32 years to provide “the structure for people to express their love and support for kids in our community.”
At the end of his speech, Brossoit was presented with an appreciation plaque for his service and also the news that a Schools Foundation scholarship will be awarded annually in his honor.
— Story and photos by Teresa Wippel