By Mike McKenna
Every parent of a student in Blaine County has one thing in common: We all want our kids to have the best possible opportunities to learn. Thankfully, the Blaine County Education Foundation (BCEF) is here to help.
And BCEF’s new executive director, Deborah Van Law, is the perfect person to lead their mission to primarily: Focus community resources to support the success of all Blaine County School District students.
“As a former teacher, I’ve always respected the Education Foundation so much. It’s been such a great resource,” Deborah said. “So I’m really excited to be a part of it now and to help support our students so they can be successful.”
The nonprofit BCEF was created in 1992 to help raise community resources to support local students in a wide variety of ways. They do so through three main channels.
The first is their Students in Need Fund. This fund is designed to remove barriers to learning or participating in school activities. This program includes helping 583 students get free or assistance with meals this year. The need is much greater than anticipated and The Hunger Coalition has stepped in to help BCEF battle this challenge. The Can Do Fund is also part of this program and helps students with everything from team uniforms to music equipment rentals, field trip fees, graduation costs and school supplies. Once again this year, BCEF provided over 400 backpacks with school gear for students.
The second program is Innovative Grants. These grants can be applied school-wide or by individual teachers and can be used to help with everything from adaptive resources to literacy materials to bringing in motivational speakers.
The third program is their annual Scholarships Funds. BCEF administers about 42 scholarships. They granted over $120,000 last year and over $4.5 million over the last 30+ years.
“These programs help families and teachers who need our support to be successful,” Deborah said, explaining that running BCEF is an ideal job for her. “I love meeting people who support public education and we’re lucky to have so many people like that here.”
Deborah describes herself as someone who loves education, even though her road to learning was a bumpy one.
Born in El Paso to a migrant working family, Deborah’s dad was a Vietnam veteran and her family moved around quite a bit during her youth. When she entered the public education world she couldn’t speak English. She actually dropped out of high school twice before education called her back.
Deborah was offered a job as a bilingual parapro, under the condition that she complete her GED first. She did, got the job and eventually went to Boise State University and received a Gates Millennium scholarship. She would then go on to teach a variety of subjects and grades for nearly two decades, first at Hemingway and then at Alturas Elementary.
“I loved teaching and think it has prepared me for this job,” Deborah said. “I’m inspired by our local teachers and our local families and by what happens every day in our schools. I deeply respect education and want to help in any way I can.”
If you’d like to help or find out more, please go to SupportBCEF.org.