The North East Educational Foundation (NEEF) raised nearly $281,000 at its annual Gala on Friday, Feb. 18. The theme was RECONNECT! – an opportunity to reconnect with business partners, elected officials, educational leaders and the community after a year apart.
Gala Committee Chair Avery Duke welcomed guests to the Witte Museum.
“NEEF is a group of very real people who care about funding education and supporting our teachers and students in NEISD,” said Duke. “Leaders in the community that give of their time and money to see the development of the community through these grants. I would not be on this board if it weren’t for the generous men and women who are so invested in this cause.”
One of the main goals of the night was to raise funds for iCSI, the Institute of CyberSecurity and Innovation. This hands-on, interactive academy for computer programming, network security, network engineering, and cybersecurity opened in 2021.
Francisco Vara, a senior in the DATA program at Roosevelt High School, was the keynote speaker for the night. He shared the impact that the CyberPatriot program has had on his life. An incredible $86,000 was raised for the iCSI Fund-A-Need campaign.
“Every year, it gets better and better. The energy was high and the attendees were buzzing with conversation and excitement as well. It’s such a great event to be part of,” said Duke.
This was also the first Gala for new Executive Director Jim Barshop, who started in September 2021.
“What an amazing experience to plan and implement a fundraising event for more than 600 supporters of NEISD. The energy in the room was electric! Our guests seemed really happy to reconnect with each other,” said Barshop.
Spirit groups from Johnson, LEE, Madison, MacArthur, and Reagan high schools welcomed attendees. While guests were in the reception area, they were serenaded by an a cappella group from MacArthur and a string quartet from Churchill High School. Along the eastern side of the hall, magnet programs from the Design and Technology Academy (DATA), the North East School of the Arts (NESA), the Agriscience Magnet Program (AMP), and iCSI promoted their program.
“Having students from throughout the District welcome our guests and educate them about some of our wonderful magnet programs truly added a level of warmth and brought home why we were all there that evening – to raise funds that support innovation and enrichment in our classrooms,” said Barshop.
The program included dinner and a live auction led by professional auctioneer Scotty Gibbs. Items include trips to Cabo San Lucas, pearls from Gurinsky Jewelers, and a deer blind constructed by students from CTEC, the Career and Technical Education Center. To end the night, NEISD School Board President Shannon Grona led the room in a Toast to Teachers.
NEEF’s mission is to raise funds to develop and expand educational opportunities in NEISD schools. For the 2021-2022 school year, more than $316,000 in classroom grants were distributed to projects.