The Education Foundation of the Kennebunks and Arundel (EFKA) is dedicated to enhancing academic excellence in grades K-12 in the public schools of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Arundel. EFKA works in partnership with administrators and teachers in Maine Regional School Unit 21 (RSU#21) as well as community members to help provide students with the skills and knowledge required for success in the 21st century economy.
EFKA is an independent, charitable 501(c)(3) organization, governed by an unpaid Board of Directors. EFKA has no office space or paid staff; all work is conducted by volunteers including young people, parents, grandparents, and other individuals—both active and retired, both year-round and part-year residents.
EFKA raises private funds from residents and other generous individuals and from area businesses and non-profits. Everything we accomplish on behalf of our children is made possible by our communities’ generous gifts of time and money.
The mission of EFKA is to enhance excellence in the schools of the Kennebunks and Arundel by funding creative and innovative programs for students and professional development for teachers and other staff.
EFKA accomplishes its mission through grant-making and other initiatives that celebr/ate learning. Grants are of two types. Professional development grants aim to enhance knowledge and application of best practices in education. Grants for student programs aim to increase students’ ability to succeed in the 21st century economy by supporting hands-on learning and cutting-edge ideas.
When Ted Damon retired from his executive position at the Singer Corporation, he didn’t just sit back and relax. Instead, he turned his strategic planning from sewing machines to students. Damon worked with Sue Cressey on a special program for Kennebunk High School students. “I was impressed with how uninterested they seemed in the program,” he recalls. The program ended, but Damon’s concerns didn’t. He enrolled in a freshman English class at KHS for a year to see what was going on in the classroom. Damon read the books, took the test, and participated in discussions. Again, he was struck by students’ lack of motivation. “The kids are bored, and not for lack of an interested teacher. The subject matter is uninteresting to them. There is very little focus and engagement. The subject matter lacked relevance in their minds.”
Damon felt there had to be a way to change this situation. At Cressey’s suggestion he investigated the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation, which seemed to have captured students’ attention with innovative teaching tools. He also spent time with teachers, asking them for their wish lists—what they would do with students if money were not an issue. And in June 2006, with a handful of like-minded parents, Damon formed the Education Foundation of the Kennebunks.
The first program funded by the Education Foundation of the Kennebunks was a trip for about 200 Kennebunk High School freshmen to the Space Science Center in Bangor. Damon was delighted with the teamwork of the students and their fascination with the different roles they played. It was a real-life experience on their level.
Since that first program, Damon and the team have built on their success, continuing to spread the word to local educators and to collect generous contributions from the community. In its three-and-a-half years of existence, the Education Foundation has funded close to 60 programs. Its board has grown to 14 dedicated people, both parents and professionals, all volunteers focused on the common goal of quality education. With the 2009 consolidation of Arundel, Kennebunk, and Kennebunkport into a single school district, the foundation looks toward including programs in the Arundel school system as well and has changed its name to the Education Foundation of the Kennebunks and Arundel (EFKA).
Damon is delighted with the results but he’s not done yet. He believes the lasting value of the Foundation’s investment will be realized when the K-12 curriculum is able to carry forward the creative ideas and programs that have been funded thus far. That’s why 35 percent of Foundation funding goes to teacher training, including initiatives such as Learning and the Brain, Science Fairs, and Columbia University School of Journalism trips.
Engaging other institutions with the same motives, in order to broaden opportunities for students and educators, is also on the horizon. With fiscal concerns always at hand, EFKA’s goal is to work with other education foundations to forge partnerships where possible. Tapping charitable organizations for new funding sources is also on the table. Damon takes in what he’s accomplished. “When one sees the enthusiasm and engagement of students and teachers, that is the best test of success at the moment.”