What You Likely Don’t Know About the Loudoun Education Foundation
Written By: Danielle Nadler
Shontel Simon, now in her 24th year in education, is Loudoun County’s nominee for The Washington Post’s Principal of the Year. She has served as the principal of Forest Grove Elementary in Sterling for seven years.
The Loudoun Education Foundation may be one of the county’s best-kept secrets. It startedin 1991 as a passion project of four School Board members, who wanted to help community members support innovative educational projectsthat went above and beyond the school system’s operating budget. Projects like classroom grants for teachers, scholarships for graduates, and awards ceremonies to honor high-achieving students.
Since then, LEF has raised more than $8.5 million and is now on track to bring in more than $3 million a year to support the public school system. The foundation’s team—including four staff members, 21 foundation trustees, and 14 honorary trustees—is committed to connecting donors’ passions to areas of need within the public schools.
For some, it’s a chance to provide weekend meals for food-insecure students that prompts them to give. For others, it’s about sending a student to STEM camp who wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity. Others want to invest in diversifying and preparing the future workforce. They all turn to LEF to make the most of their investment.
Here’s just one example of how the foundation puts community resources to work: In 2017, LEF pursued and won a Good Neighbor grant from Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to create after-school STEM programs that would proactively close the achievement gap among Loudoun County students. Coupled with donations from Howard Hughes Medical Institute and several other community partners, LEF has since expanded PROPEL and Level Up to 10 elementary and four middle schools, respectively.
The programs invite economically disadvantaged students to take part in long-term STEM projects that build their confidence and problem-solving skills. Just four years in, teachers are already seeing that students who take part in PROPEL or Level Up do better in math, reading, and science, making them more likely to enroll in Honors, Advanced Placement, and other higher-level coursework. That is real progress that will lead to more students from historically marginalized communities to become scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and computer scientists.
Another example of LEF’s work is the special section you’re reading now. For 29 years, the foundation has helped honor the educators nominated for Teacher and Principal of the Year by hosting a banquet. But this year, the celebration is taking the form of this special section.
Teachers have had an especially difficult year, as they managed to keep students engaged in virtual classrooms. As part of Teacher Appreciation Week, take a minute to thank a teacher. If you want to put a little oomph behind that thank you, donate $10, $25, or $50 at LoudounEducationFoundation.org to the Making a Difference Teacher Grants program. Thank you for helping us honor Loudoun County’s outstanding educators.