The North Thurston Education Foundation’s Hearts Program Helps Connect Students

My position is a sensitive one; young people don’t like talking about the hardships in their life. Having an incentive program such as the North Thurston Education Foundation’s Hearts Program helps develop connections with students.

Over the 2018-19 school year, I used the gift cards from the Hearts Program to encourage attendance in school and as a reward to encourage follow through on assignments and participation in tutoring.

I worked with a student since last October who was chronically absent. She struggled with depression and was not connected to anyone -student or staff – at school. She was a sweet girl that wanted to work hard; she didn’t have anyone holding her accountable or even reaching out to her. With the help of the school counselor, we met with her to offer support, including walking shoes and a coat. After creating a foundation with her and her mother, and providing tools to help her get to school, we made a deal; I told her that we would meet once a week to discuss how things were going at home and in school. If she could make it to school at least three days next week, I told her I’d give her a $5 Dutch Bros. gift card. Every week we met, and she brightened up knowing someone cared about how she was doing, not just that she was going to school. We met weekly to check-in, and those weeks she couldn’t make it; she knew she didn’t earn the Dutch Bros. card yet we met and talked about school and what she needs to accomplish to achieve her goals. We met for the rest of the year, and I saw a definite change in her mood and drive to do what she needed to do.

Having this program to help build relationships with these students is invaluable. Most of the students I work with don’t have parents helping them remember things or to encourage them to power through; they only have themselves. I hope this program continues so we can reach more students that struggle with the little things.


Linda Torres
Student Support Navigator
North Thurston Public Schools

Looking for a Way to Give Back and Get Involved?

1. North Thurston Education Foundation is looking for Investment Committee members! If you are interested in serving please contact Executive Director, Mike Jones by email [email protected].

The investment committee meets four times per year and they are responsible for overseeing the Foundation’s investments. We estimate that this is a four-hour per year commitment.

2. We are looking for North Thurston Education Foundation School Ambassadors for the following North Thurston Public Schools:
Mountain View Elementary
Pleasant Glade Elementary
South Bay Elementary
Woodland Elementary

Ambassadors act as the go-between for the Foundation and the school.
Learn more by emailing NTEF Executive Director, Mike Jones at [email protected]

Featured in the photo above is School Ambassador for River Ridge High School, Doreen Berg.

North Thurston Education Foundation’s “Because of You” Annual Luncheon Set for Oct. 18

Please join the North Thurston Education Foundation (NTEF) for our annual luncheon, “Because of You”, on Friday, October 18 at 11:30 a.m. at the Lacey Community Center.

There is no charge to attend, but organizers request all attendees register in advance here. A minimum donation of $100 is encouraged. All donations raised at the luncheon will go toward the Foundation’s scholarship program, Student Assistance Grants and Learning Improvement Grants. In 2018, NTEF distributed close to $250,000.

There are sponsorship and volunteer opportunities available. For more information, please contact Mike Jones at (360) 790-6548 or [email protected]

Donation Request

The Sacks of Fury Cornhole Tournament is a new fundraiser for North Thurston Education Foundation (501c3). The purpose of this event is to raise funds to support students and their families who are homeless or are on the brink of homelessness.

Last year, with the help of your generous contributions, North Thurston Education Foundation assisted at least 37 students’ families with rental and utility assistance, which kept them from losing their housing. Because of your support, these families and their children have been able to stay in their homes and have not become another statistic in the homeless crisis.

Because of your support, there are 37+ students who are not sleeping in a car, shelter, tent or on someone’s sofa.

Last year, the Foundation was able to write 51 checks to cover partial rent payments or utility payments for families to keep them from becoming homeless. In addition, we allocated funds to assist families with sport registration fees, instruments for music classes, clothes and shoes for students in need, and additional supplies and food for both students and families.

We have a HUGE fundraising goal leading up to our August 17 Fundraising Cornhole Tournament, and we know we can do it with your help.

Our goal is to raise $50,000 for homeless students and their families in our district. Please consider a donation.

Even a small amount can greatly assist a family and help reduce homelessness and remove education barriers for students.

We hope you’ll consider making a donation or you’ll join a team and compete on August 17. For additional information on making a donation, becoming a sponsor or attending this event, please contact Mike Jones at [email protected] or (360) 790-6548.

Thank you for considering a donation for the 2019 Corn Hole Tournament.



Mike Jones, Executive Director
North Thurston Education Foundation


Blake Knoblauch, Board Chair
North Thurston Education Foundation


p.s. For a printable donation form, click here.

North Thurston Education Foundation Awards $125,000 in Scholarships to 38 Students

The North Thurston Education Foundation has awarded scholarships with a total value of $125,000 to 38 graduating seniors from North Thurston Public Schools.

Recipients of the scholarships — which range in value from $2,000 to $12,000 —were selected on the basis of factors that included financial need, academic performance, school and community activities, personal essays, and letters of recommendation.

“The committee’s selection process was especially challenging this year due to the many quality applications we received.  We are pleased and proud to be able to award scholarships to 38 of these deserving students.  It is exciting to help these students begin their post-high school educations,” said Cathy Callahan who chaired the committee that reviewed applications and selected the scholarship recipients.

The following graduating seniors received this year’s awards:

North Thurston High School: Fasika Alemu, Jacquelyn DeCastro, Christina Floyd, Jasmin Fuentes, Alexandria Gregg, Dylan Harn, Michelle Hyland, Aubrey Martin, Tyler Powell, Daniela Rojas-Hernandez, Raihaanah Tahir and Shea Thomas.

Timberline High School: Sophia Davies-Ahmed, Kaitlynn Dean, Justin Kuhn, Lisa Lam, Chi Le, Abagail Moldenhauer, Steven Moreno, Valerie Mosier, Jessica Neal, Dakota Nelson, Lauren Schutt , Sana Surrency and Akemi Vuong.

 River Ridge High School:  Kendrick Echevarria, Layla Fuller, Matthew Jenkins, Brandon Kim, Jannell Manandic, Autumn Payne, Zyon Rodriguez, Valentina Salai, Paris Soots, Lisa-Marie Tangaro, Promise Vaitogi and Ryan Young.

South Sound High School:  Lahkaiah Dupervil

Sixteen of the scholarships are named after individuals in the community and funded by bequests from or donations on behalf of the persons for whom they are named. The remaining scholarships were funded solely by the Foundation’s annual fund-raising and by an unrestricted grant from the Dawkins Charitable Trust.

The scholarships recipients were celebrated at a June 10, 2019 reception honoring them and the Foundation’s donors. The reception provided an opportunity for students and donors to meet and visit.


Board Member Spotlight: Brenda McAferty North Thurston Public Schools McKinney-Vento Homeless/Foster Care Liaison

 1. How did you first get involved in NTEF?
I have been familiar with the North Thurston Education Foundation for several years. However, over the past five years as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Liaison, I have become more aware of the impact the foundation has on supporting the needs of our nearly 900 McKinney-Vento homeless students. Three years ago, I was approached by a member of the board and asked if I would be interested in being a member of this amazing group. How could I say no to such an important part of our community? I am now serving in my third year on the board.
2. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love camping, boating, and kayaking with my family, as well as visiting my two adorable grandchildren in Washington D.C. I also enjoy volunteering with my daughter as an overnight host at our local family shelter.

3. How do you believe the community can best support the work of NTEF?

There are several ways our community can support the work NTEF. One way is to become familiar with all the amazing things the foundation does to support our students, staff and schools; you can check us out on the web at One program that I am especially proud of is our “Sponsor a Senior” program which provides every graduating senior who qualifies under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act with a cap & gown and a yearbook. Other ways to support NTEF include direct donations to the foundation, signing up for AmazonSmile or Fred Meyer Community Rewards program. Every little bit helps! 

Learning Improvement Grants

Our Learning Improvement Grants help teachers increase student learning tied to district and state learning goals.

*Pictured is Tiffany Bradford, with NTEF Executive Director Mike Jones. Tiffany, of Lakes Elementary, was awarded a Learning Improvement Grant for a Dictionary Knowledge Program.

The next deadline for submitting a Learning Grant application has been extended to May 15, 2019!

Click here to apply: