by Sheldon Ocker
Millions of people were shocked and sickened by the Sandy Hook school shootings in December 2012. Jason DiLauro said the senseless tragedy “scared the crap out of me,’’ but he decided to do something about it.
As a resident of Bath Township, the financial advisor was in no position to affect the fortunes of the Connecticut school that was victimized by a 20-year-old male who turned a gun on himself after killing 28, including 20 school children.
Not surprisingly, DiLauro began thinking about the safety of his daughter, Isabella, who attended Hillcrest Elementary (now Richfield Elementary) at the time. DiLauro decided to check out the school.
“I went into the building and there were people walking around all over the place,’’ he said. “I asked the principal, ‘How in the heck can we have all these doors open based on what happened last week?’’’
He talked to then- Revere Superintendent Randy Boroff, who told him the state would not give Revere money to upgrade security so DiLauro would “have to pay for it himself.’’
That’s when he met with two friends and created the Revere Schools Foundation, which has raised, by DiLauro’s estimation, between $500,000 and $1 million for the district’s needs.
Now, DiLauro is one of three national finalists for the Community Service Award in the 16th annual Invest in Others Awards, a program recognizing financial advisors who make a difference with charities across the country and the world. As a finalist, DiLauro will receive $25,000 for the nonprofit of his choice. If he wins, his stipend will increase to between $50,000 and $75,000.
The first thing on the Revere Schools Foundation’s agenda was to secure the entrances at each school, followed by increasing coverage of security cameras and ensuring more efficient communication with fire and police personnel.
DiLauro and his board of 10 members felt there might be value in the See Something, Say Something initiative, where students and staff members report unusual occurrences and odd behavior in and around schools.
“There was a big national push at the time to educate the kids,’’ he said. “We held the first three events in my basement. I think we raised around $50,000.’’
Initially, DiLauro misunderstood the intention of See Something, Say Something. “I laughed, because when I first heard about it, I thought it was a big tattle-tale program.’’
It didn’t take long for DiLauro to change his mind.
“Every single time we do a campaign – every time – the action in the offices of the guidance counselors goes up dramatically,’’ he said.
Catching criminals before they can accomplish their mission hasn’t been the only benefit of See Something, Say Something in the Revere district, although a man trying to pick locks in a school parking lot was thwarted.
Watchful eyes spotted someone acting erratically, only to discover it was an elderly man who needed help after getting lost and wandering onto school property.
“We’ve heard stories of a kid who didn’t eat and another who was getting picked on and talked about suicide,’’ DiLauro said. “There was a kid who talked about swallowing a bottle of pills. We’ve gotten therapy for kids who we wouldn’t have known were having problems.’’
Other Revere Schools Foundation programs involve supporting School Resource Officer Scott Dressler. DiLauro will try to raise $80,000 during the current school year to support Dressler and any additional SROs next year. The foundation already commits $25,000 per year for police to be on hand when kids arrive and depart school.
The foundation also partners with Misty Acres, which uses equine therapy to treat kids with mental health issues.
DiLauro instituted a scholarship program designed to annually keep 15 or more talented Revere students from leaving Northeast Ohio by taking a one credit-hour course at the University of Akron and interning with local businesses.
“At the end of the day, the battle cry for the foundation every year is keep our babies safe,’’ DiLauro said. “I said that from day one.’’ ∞