by Judy Stringer
It’s not uncommon for teenagers to redefine themselves as they begin to strengthen their identities and assess their relationships to others.
The 15-year-old Hudson City School Foundation finds itself at a similar crossroad.
HCSF, launched in 2008, was initially the catalyst for the design, funding and construction of the Scott Malson Field at Hudson Middle School and Memorial Stadium at the high school, as well as the Malson Athletic Center and entryway to the stadium. Since then, it has also spearheaded the renovation of the high school tennis courts and has contributed consistently through other programs like the high school’s Athletic and Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame, which the schools foundation organizes and oversees, and artists-in-residence program, where it brings in outside creatives to collaborate with students on special music and visual arts projects.
As “great” as these outcomes are, said Laura Gasbarro, longtime board member who was appointed executive director of the organization in the spring, HCSF has been “chugging along” for years and its volunteer board was “ready to move it forward.”
“Basically, we wanted to do more,” she said. “We are calling this our relaunch year.”
The intent of the foundation, Gasbarro explained, is to cover expenses “that are outside of the school budget.” Thus, a big part of that “doing more” is raising awareness externally – among school administrators, teachers and even community members – that Hudson City School Foundation is a starting point for student-centered projects or events that they’d like to see come to fruition.
“Because we have the connection to the district that nobody else has, we can get things done,” she said.
Those connections include Hudson Board of Education members Tom Tobin and Alisa Wright, who act as liaisons to the foundation in a non-voting capacity. Gasbarro also said that Hudson City Schools Superintendent Dana Addis and Communications Manager Jennifer Reece attend HCSF meetings and assist, update and advise the organization, also in a non-voting capacity.
Internally, HCSF decided late last year that moving forward would also require an executive director, according to Gasbarro. The board studied school foundation models throughout Ohio and found “most of them have executive directors,” she said. Gasbarro, who recently retired after serving as co-director of Hudson Community First for 17 years, agreed to take on that role temporarily while the organization raised money to hire a paid leader.
The nonprofit secured $50,000 in donations via a relaunch event earlier this year, she said, and recently embarked on a corporate sponsorship program to match.
“What we want is to have $100,000 sitting there for operational expenses, but in particular to bring on an executive director,” Gasbarro said. “The goal is for that person to be in place by the beginning of the 2024-2025 school year.”
Another important part of the relaunch is attracting a new wave of volunteers, according to HCSF Board Member Mary Margida. Margida said the board largely consists of longtime volunteers, like her, most of whom no longer have kids in the district.
“We are looking for some new people who have younger kids in the community and who really see the value in nurturing all of these opportunities for students in our community,” she said. “We are fortunate, for example, to have many graduates who move back to Hudson to raise their families here. I am one of them. We want to get more of those individuals involved because they obviously understand the benefits of having a strong, nurturing community.”
Superintendent Addis said the district, for its part, is “more than pleased” to see the momentum coming out of HCSF.
“The foundation has traditionally been a big-project organization. Our strongest example is Memorial Stadium. But discussions are now expanding to various academic endeavors that may be led by one of our staff members or an idea from the community and, so, I think that they’re opening their minds from that big-project focus to anything that benefits student opportunities, which is exciting,” Addis said. “They have vision and they’re off to a wonderful start.”
Those interested in donating to or volunteering with HCSF can visit hudsonschoolsfoundation.com or contact Gasbarro at firstname.lastname@example.org. ∞
Photo (above): Hudson Middle School art teacher Nicole Rice meets with her class near a trio of cubes, which were part of an artist-in-resident project sponsored by Hudson City Schools Foundation. Photo submitted.