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A financial boost for the Bolts

A look at how the Liberty Fund helps organizations and students
A unique way to support the Liberty Fund is to purchase a personalized and engraved paver. The pavers are located at the front entrance to Liberty High School and will be engraved this spring. Contact the Liberty Fund for details. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

NORTH LIBERTY– Parents of high school kids, as well as co-workers, friends and neighbors of parents with high school kids are no stranger to fundraisers for various student activities; from candy bar and fruit sales to car washes and even painting the school logo on driveways, students spend time every academic year generating cash for a special trip, extra equipment or something else not provided for in the budget. But not all student groups are large enough to benefit from a fundraising activity, and sometimes it’s an individual student who needs a little extra help financially in order to participate in an activity. In order to help in these situations at North Liberty’s Liberty High School, the “Liberty Fund” was created.

Supporting the little guy

“The origin of this,” Liberty Principal Scott Kibby explained, “was that our big activity programs have a way of raising money fairly easily. If its athletics (including dance and cheerleading), you’ve got a hundred football kids going around selling stuff. So they can fundraise for fun stuff that they want in a much easier method than other groups.” In addition to their own fundraisers, Liberty athletes also benefit from the Iowa City Community School District’s (ICCSD) Boosters, which coordinates cleanups at Kinnick Stadium–where Liberty, City High and West High athletes clean the stadium the morning after a home Hawkeye football game for a contribution to their program– and hosts an annual pancake breakfast.

Performing arts– including the orchestra and the vocal music group, among others– also have an easier time tapping a larger group of people, Kibby noted. In addition, they benefit from the efforts of the Music Auxiliary, which coordinates car washes. “Those two entities have a pretty good system for raising money,” Kibby noted. “But what I learned is, it’s hard for the little guy.”

The “little guy,” he said, is the Chess Team, Business Professionals of America (BPA) and the Math Team, to name a few. Many of these groups travel to competitions or other events, and, “If its twelve math kids, the scope of being able to fundraise is different than the football team or the choir.”

Kibby said a discussion began about the many smaller groups and their need to be able to do various things, whether it’s to attend a competition or, in the case of the Garden Club, purchase some basic supplies and equipment to get started. “Where does that money come from?” Kibby asked. “So we started talking, and some parents were interested.”

Kaitlynn Griffith, a Liberty parent and President of the Board of Directors for the Liberty Fund, said concerns about money were raised at the earliest Liberty Parent-Teacher-Student Organization (PTSO) meetings. “Our first question was do Liberty students and staff really need money,” she cited. “As soon as we started to ask, we quickly discovered that they do.”

“We have all been humbled to learn about the needs of our students and student groups, and inspired by the ideas for opportunities. We have been surprised by the struggle of a new school that doesn’t have funding for club costs and doesn’t have a historical fundraising engine in place,” she added. “We have learned about the needs of all of our students, but particularly those of the almost 30 percent free and reduced lunch students.”

What they decided, Kibby said, was to create the Liberty Fund, which would essentially be Liberty High’s own philanthropic foundation. The Fund exists to serve under-funded student groups, and also have what Kibby called “a special eye for under-funded students.” For example, if a swimmer couldn’t afford the competition swimsuit needed to participate on the combined West High and Liberty High swim team, “the Liberty Fund would love to be able to help that kid out,” he insisted. “We don’t want the cost of an activity to be a barrier.”

Griffith added, “I hope that any Liberty student who wants to participate in an activity, or explore going to college, or who seeks support for their academics, or who strives to become a leader has those opportunities and is not hindered because of money. And I hope that the Liberty Fund becomes a legacy not just to support the Liberty of today but all of its future students.”

Founders Club and Fund Membership

The Liberty Fund has two main components: the Founders Club, and the Liberty Fund Membership.

The Founders Club is for large donations of $1,000 or more. Membership in the Founders Club is available through June 30, 2019 with three levels: the Leadership Circle ($10,000 or more), the Silver Level ($5,000) and the Purple Level ($1,000). Contributors in the Leadership Circle will be recognized on a plaque in the Liberty High School foyer as well as on a pair of engraved silver pavers in front of the school. Silver Level participants will also be recognized on a plaque and on one silver paver, while Purple Level donors will receive plaque recognition and a terra cotta paver.

The Liberty Fund Membership has two options: the Lightning Club (sustaining monthly gifts of $10 or more), and the Path of Recognition (personalized and engraved pavers at $500 for silver and $250 for terra cotta).

The pavers are already in place, forming the walkway into the main entrance. “The district is going to let us engrave them,” Kibby said, with one restriction. “They’re not going to let us engrave anything that makes the bolt (Liberty’s logo, and a centerpiece of the walkway). They’ll let us engrave all of the ones outside it.”

All donations go to the ICCSD Foundation, which then routes the funds back to Liberty. “That’s kinda cool,” Kibby remarked, “Because the Foundation has the bookkeeping capacity to track it all, and the families will receive a tax deduction form for contributing to a tax-exempt entity.”

The Liberty Fund kicked off solicitations for donations in December, with flyers sent out to all Liberty families as well as all of the ICCSD’s North Liberty schools. “So, we’re not too far down the road,” Kibby noted.

Wants and needs

The principal pointed out, when it comes to fundraising in the schools, there are wants and needs. “I’d like for this money to be for needs,” he insisted. “The Math Team needs to pay an entry fee to be in a competition, so we’ve got to have money for that. The Garden Club needs to have a fence around their garden so the deer won’t eat their stuff. Those are needs.” Wants, Kibby said, would be things like the mighty Lightning football team wanting to have a team meal before each game. “That’s the hard part,” he said, “They fundraise for some of those ‘wants’ as opposed to those ‘needs.’” Prioritizing wants from needs, he added, makes having one centralized fundraiser for all activities practically impossible, and only further highlights the need for the Liberty Fund. “It would sure be nice if we just did one thing. It would be easier on the families, and yet, I don’t know how to minimize all those things that they like to do, but wouldn’t have to do.”

Discussion and planning for the Liberty Fund has been in progress for roughly a year, Kibby said, “We haven’t given any money out yet, but we’re getting ready to. We created a grant system. Teachers have a link where they can go in and apply for funds, and then this committee will review the applications and start divvying up money in January.”

He acknowledged people may be hesitant to donate more money to the school, especially after having property taxes, the Physical Plant and Equipment tax Levy (PPEL), the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) sales tax and other assorted levies and surtaxes already going toward education. However, he is hopeful people in the community will continue to support their high school by contributing to the fund.

“I would say it’s been really cool to watch North Liberty rally around Liberty High School. I have felt a sense of community around this school, whether it was the Homecoming parade with people lined up everywhere (or other Liberty events),” he marveled. “People are excited about this place and they want to be able to kick-start it and get it going in the right direction.”

The clubs and organizations that are not district-funded and would be directly helped by the Liberty Fund, he added, are ways to connect kids to the school. “We know that the more kids are connected to school, the better their grades will be, the better their attendance is and the more successful they will be.”

Kibby said Liberty High wants to provide as many opportunities for students as possible, “And that’s the goal of the Liberty Fund.”

For additional information or to donate:

The Liberty Fund

1400 S. Dubuque St.

North Liberty, IA 52317

Email: libertyhighfund@gmail.com

Website: www.iowacityschools.org/TheLibertyFund