By: Mary Stiers
Vice President, ROWVA Public Schools Foundation
When I took chemistry in high school, I became so frustrated trying to balance a chemical equation that I burst into tears in the middle of class. The only good thing that came out of that embarrassing moment was a cute guy in the class, displaying his chivalric nature, left the room and came back with a two-foot length of toilet paper so that I could blow my nose.
Chemistry was demanding. It pushed me and made me think—and occasionally cry. But even as a high school student, I knew those harder courses were necessary to take, to challenge my mind and help me grow intellectually. I was a serious student, interested in education, and I became a teacher at ROWVA. An English teacher, not a chemistry teacher. I knew my limits.
I stayed at ROWVA for my entire teaching career, our kids were educated there, and after retirement, I joined the ROWVA Public Schools Foundation (RPSF). So I know ROWVA and the community that supports it. I also know that ROWVA students do well in chemistry and physics, ranking high at science and engineering competitions. The current chemistry teacher and some excellent former chemistry teachers have inspired students to pursue careers in science.
But ROWVA’s chemistry lab is 64 years old. It hasn’t changed since the school was built in 1954. ROWVA’s current chemistry and physics teacher is retiring in 2020. In two years, it will be difficult to find a new teacher that will want to set up shop in the
current outdated and, to be painfully honest, rather dilapidated lab. Graduates who leave ROWVA’s lab may be intellectually prepared to study chemistry and other sciences in college, but they are often intimidated by the unfamiliar appearance and technology of modern college labs.
Many small schools in Illinois are facing financially challenging times and ROWVA is no exception. Administrators are constantly addressing capital improvement projects. The RPSF couldn’t help our district refinish a gym floor, replace a boiler or hallway tile, or add an HVAC system to the cafetorium because those projects don’t fit well with the RPSF’s mission: to enrich and enhance students’ educational experiences. But a new chemistry lab? Well, that was different. A new chemistry lab definitely would fit the RPSF’s mission because without it, we fear that the future chemistry/physics teaching position would remain unfilled. Having no chemistry/physics teacher at ROWVA would greatly weaken our science curriculum.
So the RPSF has decided to take on the challenge of funding a new chemistry lab, setting a fund-raising goal of $165,000 based on the initial project bid. The RPSF has committed $80,000 and is now starting to raise the rest of the money so that the current lab can be renovated and ready for the 2019-2020 school year.
The Galesburg Community Foundation is providing invaluable assistance with our chemistry lab fundraising project. They provide resources and strategies for fundraising and are willing to help with complex gifts, like gifts of grain or estate gifts. The Community Foundation makes online giving possible and offers office support such as charitable receipting and thank you notes. Basically, the GCF gives the RPSF time to make connections to ask for donations by taking care of our accounting and office work. The partnership between the two foundations makes the whole process much smoother.
With the help of the GCF and the support of ROWVA’s alumni and community, ROWVA students will walk into a brand new chemistry/physics lab next August. When our students see it, there should be cheers! No tears.