A sense of belonging in Topeka Unified School District 501 took center stage Tuesday during the eighth annual Topeka Public Schools Foundation breakfast at the Ramada Inn and Convention Center in downtown Topeka.
“It’s a family,” Gerald Gibson, a senior at Highland Park High School told a crowd of 300 community leaders, elected officials, administrators and teachers. “No matter who you are, even if you don’t know me, we’re all family.”
Superintendent Tiffany Anderson continued the family theme in her remarks during the annual event, which raises money for the district’s private foundation, highlighting the district’s work to reduce poverty in USD 501 where 77 percent of students qualify for free and reduced meals — an indicator of whether a student is economically disadvantaged.
“I believe the schools are the center of our communities,” Anderson told the crowd. “You don’t hear many schools say they want to reduce poverty. We believe that is a critical piece of what we do.”
As part of her “State of the District” address, Anderson highlighted the new Jardine Academy, saying it is the only preschool through eighth-grade campus in the region that emphasizes science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, or STEAM, concepts.
“When you see kindergartners doing robotics, it will blow your mind,” she said.
Topeka businessman, philanthropist and youth mentor Jim Parrish was honored during the breakfast as the 2017 Topeka Public Schools Foundation Patron of the Year.
Contact reporter Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143 or follow her on Twitter @AngelaDeines.