Back to School Lunch and Awesome Awards

I Am Video from Salem-Keizer Public Schools on Vimeo.

The 2016 Back to School Lunch and Awesome Awards are Sept. 13 at the Salem Convention Center.

The annual Back to School Lunch is a benefit for The Salem-Keizer Education Foundation, supporting all of its programs and services, including Enrichment Academy, the School Supply Depot, Bazillion Books for Kids, the Annual Spelling Bee, Innovation Grants, The Crystal Apple Awards, Learning Gardens and much more.

To volunteer or get involved with SKEF, please contact us at (503) 364-2933.

Thank you to our 2016 sponsors:

BMW of Salem

 Bookbyte

Oregon College Savings Plan

Bank of the CascadesSodexo

Kaiser Permanente Allied Video

US Bank  

Saalfeld Griggs, PC

AKT Salem

Kathy and Stephen Gordon

In House Graphics


Here is information from the 2015 Lunch and awards:

The Salem-Keizer Education Foundation announced the second round of Awesome Awards at its annual Back to School Lunch Sept. 8 at the Salem Convention Center. Master of Ceremonies Tom Hewitt, a retired educator and Crystal Apple honoree, told the stories of people, families and organizations that do whatever it takes so that every child, every day, can be awesome.

In addition to celebrating all things Awesome, the guests were inspired by returning speaker Lou Radja and his powerful story about the African philosophy of teamwork and collaboration, Ubuntu. SKEF is thankful to both Tom and Lou for an epic recognition for our community.

“The Awesome Awards are our opportunity to celebrate human spirit, community, generosity and all things made possible because of the people and organizations in our region,” said Executive Director Krina Lee. “We created The Awesome Awards to appreciate and celebrate the unsung heroes who quietly go about their work and make sure every child, every day, has the opportunity to be awesome.”

“Recognition is important. It’s a powerful way of celebrating people and letting them know they are valued. Think of it as a big hug from your community,” said Brent Neilsen, President of the SKEF Board of Directors. “We can build a better world by celebrating the people and qualities that we know to be awesome.”

The Awesome Awards were a surprise to each of the following recipients:

South Salem High School Principal Lara Tiffin is a champion. She is relentless in her pursuit of anything and everything that will help her teachers, her students and her community succeed. And she does it all with the patience of Job. At SKEF we see that passion first hand. If Tiffin hears that we need something, she puts out an APB and she makes it happen. She helps us navigate complex achievement initiatives, and she supports all things SKEF on a personal level. She has been a table host at our luncheon for many years (including this year on the first day of school), attends and supports our auctions and volunteers for everything from the Awesome 3000 to helping move trailers full of books and book cases. Lara Tiffin, you are awesome.

Terry Hancock has long been an advocate for kids’ health and wellness and team spirit as a kids’ soccer coach and SKEF supporter. But recently he went above and beyond to help SKEF realize its future. Hancock, a commercial real estate provider, helped SKEF find a permanent home downtown. He worked tirelessly to negotiate a deal for the Starkey-McCully Building, which will be the future SKEF headquarters and the Mike McLaran Center for Student Success. Hancock was recognized by the Salem Association of Realtors for his effort. Hancock and his team at Hancock Real Estate earned the Bill Frey Memorial Commercial Transaction of the Year, an award for a commercial transaction that is outstanding, noteworthy and exemplifies the most professionalism, creativity and significance to the community.

Grove, Mueller & Swank accounting, tax and consulting firm is the longest standing sponsor of the Awesome 3000, our annual run that raises money to fund innovative Salem-Keizer educators. But Grove, Mueller & Swank doesn’t stop there. They contribute sweat equity, too, providing the largest group of volunteers every year. CPA Chuck Swank has been on our board as the Treasurer for the last 21 years. In 2010 his philanthropic values were honored by the Salem Chamber of Commerce when he received the Distinguished Service Award. The firm not only supports SKEF, but many other organizations and nonprofits. They are truly a service-minded organization.

Chuck Swank, accepted the award on behalf of Grove Mueller and Swank.

Statesman Journal tells the stories that move our community. SKEF’s task is to harness the passion and drive of the community to make sure that every child every day has the chance to be awesome, but we couldn’t do it without this amazing partner telling our story and the stories of other community builders. They have been incredibly generous in their coverage of the Awesome 3000, the school supply drive and of education overall. When they share these needs, whether it’s notebooks and pencils or a new building, they empower the community to raise up and meet those needs. The new Causes section, which highlights local nonprofits and community members, and the annual Catalog of Giving exemplify the newspaper’s commitment to making Salem and Keizer a better place.

Oregon College Savings Plan is a true partner to SKEF and to education statewide. They help students gain relevant writing experience by supporting our “Why College is Awesome” and “Why I Love Oregon” essay contests. They have given away more than $100,000 in college savings plans to Salem-Keizer students who have participated in these contests. Oregon College Savings Plan is helping SKEF rally around college and career readiness, connecting us to partners, ideas and innovative practices around the state, including the volunteer mentor program ASPIRE. SKEF is proud to say that we will launch the first districtwide ASPIRE program in Oregon next year thanks in part to that partnership. Michael Parker, Executive Director of the Oregon College Savings Network accepted the award.

Farm to table advocate Michelle Ratcliffe is the sweetest Tasmanian devil that you will ever meet. Her energy is only paralleled by her passion. She’s fueled by her love of agriculture, school gardens and youth education in agriculture. She led the charge for Oregon’s farm to school and school garden movement, persuading the legislature to make increasingly larger investments since 2008. Oregon now provides millions of dollars for schools to buy food from local farms and boasts more than 500 school gardens. In 2014, her work received the North American Agricultural Marketing Excellence Award, and in 2013 she was recognized with the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior’s prestigious Health Policy Promotion Award. Yet she still makes time to brag about local school gardens, connecting SKEF with HONDA for a series of public service announcements this spring.

Oregon ASK is almost single handedly responsible for raising the quality of before and after school programs in Oregon. They are advocates on all levels of policy, finance and best practices. They created the bar, and they’ve kept raising it for themselves and everyone else, including the development of the state quality standards rating system and bringing digital badges to Oregon that help providers show their expertise. They helped establish Oregon Girls Collaborative Project, a partnership that encourages girls to pursue careers and opportunities in STEM subjects. They bring innovative trainers to Oregon to make sure they raise the quality of programs for everyone in the state.

The final Awesome Award recipient was also the biggest surprise of the day. Krina Lee, Executive Director, commandeered the podium from emcee Tom Hewitt to present his award. SKEF is privileged to have many, many best friends, but Tom Hewitt is one of our dearest. Not only does he make us laugh, but he helps us advocate for the students of Salem-Keizer. He’s the one who came to us when middle school drama was cut. The actor and former drama teacher helped us create an afterschool drama program and donated his time to train the teachers. Hewitt is also the face of the Crystal Apple Awards and our Back to School Lunch where he makes audiences smile and laugh with his creative songs, parodies, and dry wit. No one will forget his gushing that Katy Perry was coming to Salem-Keizer School District at last year’s Crystal Apple Awards. ‘Psst, Tom. It’s Christy Perry.’ Because of you, Tom Hewitt, and your contagious love of life and all things that make us laugh, we think you’re awesome.