Students thrive when you empower them to shape their own stories. Explore our latest impact reports, learn about our students’ and MISF-funded programs’ impact on them, and hear community members share why they support our schools. Over the course of 40 years, the Foundation donors have given $26 million to fill the gap between a basic and world-class education.
“More than this, my family and culture were brought to life in the classroom in a way that I have never seen before. … AP Block inspired me to become more active in celebrating my own diversity and recognizing the cultures of others.”Tara Manhas, MIHS Class of 2020
In my junior year, I took AP Language and Composition blocked with AP US History. We often read literature that aligned with the time period we were studying in history class to draw connections between the individual stories and the historical movements of the time. In February, we read a book in class that reflected and resonated with my family’s historical story. During our unit on immigration, specifically the “Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965”, we read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri; it was the first time in my educational journey that I felt represented in the content we were studying.
The story of Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli paralleled the story of my grandparents, Dev and Asha Manhas, who immigrated to the United States in 1967. Both Ashoke and Dev came to America to receive higher education in their field, both struggled to understand American norms in education, and both missed their family. Not only do Ashima and Asha sound similar, but they both endured the same struggles as newlywed wives in the US. They followed their husbands to the US after their arranged marriages, leaving their family and culture behind. They both failed to find the ingredients for their traditional foods at the grocery store and felt out of place wearing their sari in public. I could not help but smile for the entire two weeks we spent reading this book because I felt represented and recognized in the contents we were exploring in school.
I expressed my gratitude to my teacher Mr. Laughary because he recognized the void of female Indian authors I felt when I would scour the bookstore for something relatable to read. More than this, my family and culture were brought to life in the classroom in a way that I have never seen before. Shortly after this unit, I spoke in the “No Place for Hate” assembly. I used this unique opportunity to discuss the struggles Asian-American students can face when culture meets community. The microaggressions that Asian-American students face can hurt their identity. By assigning untrue labels to people, they feel pressure to fulfill them and like a failure when they don’t.
This lesson was important for me to share because I have seen how unrealistic expectations and false assumptions about all types of people create burdens of unnecessary pressures on all types of students. It was not until I learned about US history that the curriculum reflected my own history. AP Block inspired me to become more active in celebrating my own diversity and recognizing the cultures of others.
“The Mercer Island Schools Foundation helped start me off on a community-focused journey. It has provided programs that have allowed me to consciously give back to my community and directly help my peers.”Jensen Hart, MIHS Class of 2022
Growing up on Mercer Island, I have benefited from the Mercer Island Schools Foundation nearly my whole life. Three specific programs supported by the Mercer Island Schools Foundation that have directly impacted me are the Where Everybody Belongs program at IMS, the Special Education Department at MIHS, and Islander Hour.
The moment I stepped on the IMS campus the WEB Leaders program impacted me. WEB Leaders made a great first impression on me and provided a sense of community even when I was a terrified 6th grader with few friends. I was deeply inspired by the WEB program and I vowed to myself that I too was going to be a WEB Leader and make a difference in the IMS community. Once I reached 8th grade, I applied and was accepted. I too had the amazing opportunity to welcome new students to the Middle School. I knew exactly how they were feeling and it was inspiring to know I was making a difference and easing the difficult transition into a new chapter of their lives.
I am also a part of Best Buddies, a program where MIHS students are paired with special education students to work to end the social barriers that these students with disabilities face. While Best Buddies does not directly receive donations from the Mercer Island Schools Foundation, it is directly impacted by the Foundation. MISF donates break-out puzzle boxes to the special education department, and I personally use these games every time that I meet with my buddy. The puzzles give us something to work on as a team, and they have helped strengthen my relationship with every special needs student with whom I have had the privilege to work. It has been inspiring to see firsthand the positive impact these donations have made on my life and on the lives of my peers.
The Mercer Island Schools Foundation also helps fund Islander Hour. I have learned a number of useful lessons regarding a variety of subjects during Islander Hour. One of the most impactful and inspiring lessons was during Black History Month. Throughout the whole month of February, there were weekly discussions provided in Islander Hour that provided the entire student body with meaningful lessons and a safe place to talk about black history and its continued suppression. Not only has my knowledge of discrimination been broadened, but these lessons also taught me the benefits of a diverse community.
The Mercer Island Schools Foundation helped start me off on a community-focused journey. It has provided programs that have allowed me to consciously give back to my community and directly help my peers. MISF has helped teach me the value of service and has inspired me to make a difference in my community. I hope the Mercer Island Schools Foundation continues to raise money for these essential programs so future students can have the same opportunities I had and similarly feel inspired to serve others.
“Engineering is a way to use my strengths to passionately mold the world around me and solve any problem through innovation and acknowledgment. The Mercer Island Schools Foundation has drastically impacted my passion for STEM.”Norah Evans, MIHS Class of 2021
When I learned how to hold a crayon, I started drawing blueprints. The other kids would be drawing stick people or their cats while I dreamed of my latest invention.
Adults would ask, “what do you want to do when you grow up?”; I would always answer with one-word inventor. Not much has changed since preschool; I still want to be an inventor, even though I now know that it is called an engineer, and I still sketch out my latest creations, even if it is not with a crayon. I build and fix everything I can get my hands on, from my garage to robots. There is no better feeling than washing off red grease and metal swarf with the gritty orange smelling soap.
In an era where daily life is permeated with technology and innovation, engineers have the ability to change lives. Engineering is a way to use my strengths to passionately mold the world around me and solve any problem through innovation and acknowledgment. The Mercer Island Schools Foundation has drastically impacted my passion for STEM. The ability to solidify my career choices from a young age was due in part to the amazing STEM classes and programs that the MISF supports.
During my time in the Mercer Island School District, I have participated in middle school robotics (6-8), MI Robotics (10-12), Unified Robotics (11-12) and VEX robotics (11). I have also been part of the Advanced Robotics Class at MIHS. My level of understanding and joy I have gotten from these programs has allowed me to be completely confident in my career choice. This confidence has shaped my future plans as I will be attending a STEM only school next fall. The ability to understand manufacturing, design and advanced engineering concepts as a high schooler will inevitably shape my future success. Thank you for these opportunities.