Foundation raises $32,000 to support school-based mental health programs in Wisconsin
Earlier this month, WEA Member Benefits Foundation’s inaugural golf fundraiser to support school-based mental health programs in Wisconsin’s public schools brought together nearly 200 supporters from across the state to The Oaks Golf Course in Cottage Grove.
The incredible turnout raised nearly $32,000 for school-based mental health. These donations will further fund and expand the pilot school-based mental health program the Foundation launched in 2021.
Why supporting mental health in schools is important
According to a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction survey:
- 52% of students reported having anxiety.
- 34% of students said they were sad or hopeless every day.
- 22% of students reported harming themselves.
- 25% of female students have seriously considered suicide.
However, accessing mental health care is a challenge. The National Survey of Children’s Health found that 46% of Wisconsin school children with mental health conditions had somewhat or very difficult time obtaining care. In addition, Wisconsin’s school counselor to student ratio is half the national standard (America’s School Mental Health Report Card, 2022).
What is being done
WEA Member Benefits Foundation, Inc., is supporting students’ mental health through the establishment of funds for direct help and for emergency assistance. “The need for more active funding of school-based mental health is more critical than ever,” says WEA Member Benefits Foundation Executive Director, Steve Goldberg. “The school districts participating in our pilot program, Appleton, Racine, Sun Prairie, Madison, and Watertown, continue to make extremely productive use of the funds we’ve helped them secure. Some are training staff as social emotional coaches, others are helping offset high health insurance deductibles to help students afford treatments, another has added a trauma screen for elementary grades. So much more has been accomplished, and most of these initiatives would not have happened without our funding.”
A group effort
WEA Member Benefits Foundation partners include the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the state Office of Children’s Mental Health, Wisconsin Education Association Council, and other state-wide organizations such as American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation and the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact. These partners help increase the program’s impact in furthering school-based mental health programs.
Adds David Kijek, President and CEO of WEA Member Benefits, “The work the Foundation is doing is so important. We’re providing better access to kids for school based mental health services through Wisconsin public schools. The support of our sponsors and our donors is making that happen, and we plan to help more districts through these additional funds.” To learn more, support, and/or donate, please visit weafoundation.org.
THANK YOU to our sponsors
WEA Member Benefits Board of Trustees
Green Bay Education Association
Key Benefit Concepts, LLC
Shah Family in memory of Pankaj Shah
Dave and Wendy Kijek
Newport-An Ascensus Company
Brown & Brown Insurance
Associates of Clifton Park
Ridge Top Exteriors
Skip and Janie Miller
DeWitt Law Firm
Update on Foundation support of student mental health and new emergency fund
WEA Member Benefits Foundation, Inc., has made great progress in supporting students’ mental health through the establishment of funds for direct help and for emergency assistance. We are also creating more community connections and will be holding our first major fundraising event in August.
Racine receives funding to support student mental health
The Racine Unified School District is one of the recipients of WEA Member Benefits Foundation’s pilot grant program that focuses on access to school-based mental health services. The AmFam Institute and community partners, including WEA Member Benefits Foundation, helped to fund the Access to All program in Racine, which ensures money is not a barrier to accessing mental health care.
In response, students at Washington Park High School Key Club took the initiative to help raise more money for the Access to All project. We love seeing students get involved in their community and sharing empathy for others. Hear from students in the Key Club who raised money to help this cause through AmFam Institute’s short Facebook reel.
School emergency fund established
WEA Member Benefits Foundation has created a school emergency fund to provide financial support for emergencies experienced by Wisconsin public school students, educators, and/or schools/districts. Examples include catastrophic events such as suicide, death of a student or educator, shooting, natural disaster, and other events that affect student and staff mental health and well-being. Most gifts will be in the $250-$500 range.
Governor Evers event honoring children’s mental health
Our active role in connecting school districts and local funders earned us an invitation to Governor Evers’ “Children’s Mental Health Advocacy Celebration” at the Executive Residence on May 30, 2023. We were invited because of our efforts to expand private philanthropy funding for school mental health services. Steve Goldberg, Executive Director of the Foundation, was able to build connections with advocates of student mental health from across Wisconsin, including state government officials.
Tony Evers, Steve Goldberg, and Kathy Evers
August 7 School Mental Health Celebration and Fundraising Event
Registrations and sponsorships continue to arrive for the Foundation’s Golf Open at The Oaks Golf Course in Cottage Grove. Some school districts plan to assemble a team for the golf scramble and some of our business partners have been extremely generous with their support. The schedule includes a silent auction, box lunches, putting contest, and hole prizes, as well as an evening cash bar, silent auction/raffle, buffet dinner, and student art contest award presentation.
Join us as an individual or as a group and support student mental health! More information and registration can be found on our event page. Register by July 14.
How our pilot districts are using their funds from the Foundation
There are many productive ways our pilot school districts are using the funds we’ve helped them secure. It’s an impressive list:
- Increasing onsite service hours from community-based counselors and therapists.
- Launching a comprehensive mental health resource website for students, parents and educators.
- Expanding mental health service to all elementary students.
- Offsetting high health insurance deductibles to help more students afford treatment.
- Improving mental health support for female students of color.
- Adding more onsite mental health clinics.
- Expanding peer support group activity.
- Staff development training around student mental health issues and employee wellness.
- Improving follow-up support for students returning from mental health hospitalization (these hospitalizations have doubled in the last year).
- Adding a trauma screener for elementary grades.
- Restorative justice training for all staff.
- Covering costs of community-based clinicians to treat trauma-exposed students.
- Expanding ethnic and racial trauma programs, a growing issue for students of color.
- Training current staff as Social Emotional Learning coaches.
- Hiring a fulltime district mental health navigator.
- Expanding their district-wide student mental health assessment process.
Art Contest Opportunity for Wisconsin Public School Students
WEA Member Benefits’ eighth annual student art contest focuses on all things Wisconsin.
All things Wisconsin is the theme of the eighth annual student art contest sponsored by WEA Member Benefits and the WEA Member Benefits Foundation, Inc.
Young artists are invited to submit pieces that show what comes to mind when they think about Wisconsin. This could mean art capturing our different seasons, things to do, places to see, the little things that make our state special, people of Wisconsin, etc.
Monetary prizes from the WEA Member Benefits Foundation, Inc., will be awarded to eleven student winners, with one student artist receiving the “Loeymae Lange Best in Class” award. The “Best in Class” award is named in memory of Loeymae Lange, a former art teacher at Cooper Elementary School in Burlington, Wisconsin. Her brother, Dr. Paul Lange, and his wife June continue to honor Loeymae’s legacy by establishing an endowment gift to the WEA Member Benefits Foundation, Inc. to honor her love for the arts and all she did to inspire students. Her legacy will live on through this generous gift in the form of monetary prizes for art contest winners.
“Wisconsin has so many wonderful people, places, things, and moments, and we are excited to see it captured through students’ perspectives and artistic expressions,” said David Kijek, WEA Member Benefits President and CEO. “It’s wonderful to be able to recognize and reward talented students and teachers in Wisconsin, and we thank the Langes for the additional financial support to be able to do so. We hope other individuals will join in donating to the Foundation to help fund future opportunities for budding artists.”
The deadline to enter the 2023 student art contest is Friday, May 5, 2023. Finalists will be announced in May. More information about the art contest, including contest rules, eligibility, and art submission information is available at weabenefits.com/studentartcontest.
Update on Foundation initiatives
EXPANDING PHILANTHROPY’S SUPPORT OF SCHOOL-BASED MENTAL HEALTH
All four of the school districts participating in WEA Member Benefits Foundation, Inc. school-based mental health pilot project have made progress in matching the challenge grants we provided earlier this year and in using those funds to expand mental health services for their students.
We’ve been assisting each of them in their funder outreach. So far, the amounts these districts have raised from local sources to supplement their challenge grants are:
- Racine – $121,000
- Watertown – $100,000
- Sun Prairie -$100,000
- Appleton – $10,000
The Foundation has able to secure an additional $7,500 for each district through gifts from American Family and Empower Retirement. We also helped the Madison School District secure a major gift from the Roots & Wings Foundation in the amount of $350,000 over a three-year period.
The total amount raised or secured for these school district mental health programs is $836,000 (above and beyond our original challenge grants) through November 10, 2022. (See details below.)
The pilot districts are making thoughtful use of their funds by:
- Racine: Reducing financial barriers (health insurance deductibles/copays) for low-income students. In the first month of this program, the district helped 30 students receive therapy they were previously unable to afford.
- Watertown: Training coaches to provide ongoing social/emotional learning support for the entire district staff and teachers, and created a full-time mental health navigator position.
- Sun Prairie: Expanding existing programs, including restorative justice training for all staff.
- Appleton: Strengthening mental health supports for elementary grade students.
STUDENT INTERNET ACCESS INITIATIVE
In response to a growing need throughout Wisconsin, we launched a pilot project in 2021 to test and refine a statewide funding model to attract, align, and sustain financial support from other private funders to help many rural and low-income pre-K-12 student households connect to the internet where affordability may be a barrier. This was partially funded by a grant from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission and additional support from the Alliant Energy Foundation. Our administrative partners in this project were the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and CESA Purchasing. Seven school districts participated in the pilot.
After a full year of the pilot effort, we have reluctantly decided to discontinue this project. The pilot experience helped us understand the complexities of connecting student households to the internet and the importance of simplifying the role of school districts in this process. The good news is that several government-funded programs are now available to help eligible student families access an affordable internet connection, so the affordability gap should narrow over time. The pilot also helped us learn some important lessons for future projects.
WEA Member Benefits Foundation School Mental Health Pilot Project: A Funding Model to Expand Philanthropic Support for School-Based Mental Health
Funds raised/secured as of 11/10/22 (not including challenge grants):
|Funds for Distribution to All Four Pilot School Districts|
|American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation||$ 10,000|
|American Family Institute for Corporate & Social Impact||$ 10,000|
|Empower Retirement||$ 10,000|
|WEA Trust||$ 100,000|
|Other donors||$ 11,000|
|Funds Secured for Individual Pilot Districts|
|Roots and Wings Foundation for Sun Prairie Area School District (2-year total)||$100,000|
|Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation for Watertown Unified School District (2-year total)||$100,000|
|City of Racine for Racine Unified School District||$121,000|
|Community Foundation of the Fox Valley Region for Appleton Area School District||$10,000|
|Additional Funds for School-Based Mental Health (Non-pilot District)|
|Roots and Wings Foundation for Madison Metropolitan School District (3-year total)||$350,000|
|Total Funds Raised or Secured||$836,000|
American Family Insurance joins list of funders for student mental health programs in Wisconsin
Company supports school-based mental health programs through private philanthropy
Madison, WI, July 12, 2022—The philanthropic arm of a statewide insurance and financial services organization for educators—WEA Member Benefits Foundation, Inc.—has launched a pilot project with four Wisconsin school districts to test a funding model for expanding private philanthropic support for school-based mental health programs throughout the state. The American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation and the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact have committed to supporting this pilot project, joining a growing list of corporate philanthropic organizations.
The WEA Member Benefits Foundation announced it will help their four pilot districts, Appleton, Racine, Sun Prairie, and Watertown, approach potential funders in their local communities to meet their challenge grant—provided by the Foundation—potentially doubling the total for each district. “The generous financial and in-kind support from American Family Insurance brings us another step closer to our goal of helping our four pilot school districts meet their challenge grant match,” said WEA Member Benefits Foundation Executive Director Steve Goldberg. “We are grateful for their generosity and hope that other corporate foundations will follow their lead to help the school districts strengthen their mental health programs.”
“We are strongly committed to supporting equity in healthy youth development, especially mental health,” said Shayna Hetzel, American Family community and social impact director. “More than ever, young people having easy access to mental health resources is critical – and that’s what innovative school-based programs such as this one help to cultivate.”
“We are thankful for American Family’s philanthropic support of our four pilot school districts. School-based mental health, especially during these stressful times, is so important to the success of our students. We hope others will join us in this effort,” said WEA Member Benefits President and CEO, David Kijek.
Initial funding for WEA Member Benefits Foundation’s student mental health pilot grant program has come from WEA Member Benefits, WEA Trust, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), GenRe, Empower Retirement, Delta Dental of Wisconsin, Parnassus Investments, Newport Group, Wisconsin Mutual Insurance, Velcor, Strom Ballweg, von Briesen & Roper, and T. Rowe Price.
More information about the WEA Member Benefits Foundation’s school-based mental health initiative and ways you can help support can be found at weafoundation.org.
Update on challenge grants for student mental health programs
As part of a pilot project to test a funding model for expanding private philanthropic support for school-based mental health programs throughout Wisconsin, WEA Member Benefits Foundation, Inc., with major funding from its sister organization—WEA Trust—is providing challenge grants to four K–12 school districts as part of the pilot: Appleton ($40,000), Racine ($40,000), Sun Prairie ($30,000), and Watertown ($30,000). The Foundation will help these districts approach potential funders in their local communities to meet their challenge grant, potentially doubling the total for each district.
April 11, 2022, Sun Prairie Area School District: Members of the Sun Prairie School Board and district administrative team met with WEA Member Benefits Foundation Executive Director Steve Goldberg and Janet Thomas, Associate Director of Student Services at the Sun Prairie Area School District, during a presentation of a $30,000 donation for student mental health programming in the district.
April 25, 2022, Racine Unified School District: Executive Director of Student Services Andrea Rittgers announced the District has received a $40,000 challenge grant for school-based mental health initiatives from the WEA Member Benefits Foundation. The District’s plan is to use the money to offset high insurance deductibles for families so all students have access to the District’s mental health clinics. This grant is part of a statewide pilot project to establish a funding path for philanthropic organizations that want to support school-based mental health programs in their communities.
Press release: School-Based Mental Health Programs Get a Helping Hand
Local foundation forges connection between mental health programs and private philanthropy
Madison, WI, March 9, 2022—The philanthropic arm of a statewide insurance and financial services organization for educators has launched a pilot project to test a funding model for expanding private philanthropic support for school-based mental health programs throughout Wisconsin. The WEA Member Benefits Foundation, with major funding from its sister organization—WEA Trust—is providing challenge grants to four K‑12 school districts as part of the pilot: Appleton ($40,000), Racine ($40,000), Sun Prairie ($30,000), and Watertown ($30,000). The Foundation announced it will help those districts approach potential funders in their local communities to meet their challenge grant, potentially doubling the total for each district.
“When we asked public educators what kept them awake at night, one of the most common responses was student mental health. And when we asked school mental health professionals what was missing from this picture, they frequently mentioned private philanthropy,” said WEA Member Benefits Foundation Executive Director, Steve Goldberg. “So, we asked corporate foundations if they were interested in supporting school-based mental health, and many of them said yes, but they didn’t know how to determine which programs to support.”
The WEA Member Benefits Foundation worked with several statewide organizations to develop a funding model that would help potential funders use their donations to strengthen school-based mental health services. The state Department of Public Instruction, the Coalition for Expanding School-Based Mental Health in Wisconsin, the state Office of Children’s Mental Health, the Wisconsin Association of Family & Children Agencies, and other organizations have provided important input. The UW Center for Community & Nonprofit Studies has been engaged as an academic partner to structure and assess the pilot for possible expansion.
“This is such outstanding news. We are delighted to have been chosen as a partner for the pilot,” said Watertown Unified School District Superintendent Cassandra Schug. Janet Thomas, Associate Director of Student Services at Sun Prairie Area School District is “thrilled to be one of the recipients of this unrestricted grant,” and added that the district will use the grant to “strengthen and expand our current school-based mental health priorities.”
“We look forward to helping our four pilot school districts invite funders in their communities to join in this challenge grant opportunity. School-based mental health, especially during these stressful times, is so important to the success of our students. We hope others will join us in this effort,” said WEA Member Benefits President and CEO, David Kijek.
WEA Trust’s CEO, Vaughn Vance, added, “School districts throughout Wisconsin are experiencing an increased need for mental health services by employees and students alike. That is why we are so excited about this pilot effort and our partnership with the WEA Member Benefits Foundation.”
Initial funding for the pilot has come from WEA Member Benefits, WEA Trust, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), GenRe, Empower Retirement, Delta Dental of Wisconsin, Parnassus Investments, Newport Group, Wisconsin Mutual Insurance, Velcor, Strom Ballweg, von Briesen & Roper, and T. Rowe Price.
PRESS RELEASE: Statewide school-based mental health initiative gets big boost
MADISON, WI, October 2021 – The WEA Member Benefits Foundation, Inc. is launching a pilot project to provide financial support for school-based mental health services for K-12 students throughout Wisconsin. Together with a sister organization, WEA Trust, the Foundation will commit $200,000 this year to demonstrate an effective funding model for school-based mental health programs.
David Kijek, President and CEO of WEA Member Benefits and the WEA Member Benefits Foundation, called the pilot project “a statewide model that can bring more philanthropic dollars to the table to help our public schools strengthen their mental health services for students. This is consistent with WEA Member Benefits’ commitment to the well-being of teachers and public education across Wisconsin.”
WEA Trust, whose group health insurance programs have had a long history serving Wisconsin public schools, sees the opportunity to reduce both employee and student health care costs. WEA Trust’s CEO, Vaughn Vance, added, “School districts throughout Wisconsin are experiencing an increased need for mental health services by employees and students alike. That is why we are so excited about this pilot effort and our partnership with WEA Member Benefits Foundation.”
Steve Goldberg, WEA Member Benefits Foundation Executive Director and former executive director of the CUNA Mutual Foundation, will oversee this pilot project. According to Goldberg, “There is an important role for private philanthropy to help address the need for school-based mental health. We are committed to building broader corporate philanthropic support for programs like this. The early funding by WEA Trust and the Foundation is an important first step.”
Interest from funders is growing. One corporate foundation has issued a $50,000 grant to the Madison Metropolitan School District to fund a student mental health program at Leopold Elementary School as a result of discussions with the Member Benefits Foundation. Several other corporate donors have contributed a total of $30,000 to the pilot. The full statewide pilot project is scheduled to launch in early 2022.
September 2021 update
WEA Member Benefits Foundation is very pleased to announce the establishment of new partnerships to financially support school-based mental health and to help students with internet access. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity created by WEA Member Benefits.
The Foundation is leading a statewide effort to establish a clear funding path to help philanthropic organizations and individuals provide financial support of school-based mental health and K–12 student access to the internet. These initiatives resulted from a series of discussions conducted by the Foundation to identify the top challenges facing Wisconsin’s public educators. School-based mental health and student internet access were mentioned frequently as major, unmet needs for K–12 students and schools.
Meeting the need
Recent studies have found at least 20% of all K–12 students face serious mental health challenges that affect their academic success and personal well-being. Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI) estimates that during the COVID-19 pandemic, that number spiked to 60% for high school students.
The need for student access to the internet is also high. The DPI estimates that despite government funding and provider discounts, at least 15,000 K–12 student households are unable to afford the monthly internet connection fee.
DPI, the Public Service Commission (PSC), and other state organizations say that a major missing piece in funding both school-based mental health programs and student internet access is private philanthropy. Steve Goldberg, Executive Director* of the Foundation, explains, “We learned that financial support from philanthropic organizations and other donors has not been widespread—not for lack of interest, but due to the lack of a clear funding path for philanthropic support. Corporate foundations throughout Wisconsin told us they really want to help fund these two causes, but they just aren’t sure how.”
A path for funders
The Foundation is now developing a funding mechanism to bring more philanthropy to the table from funders throughout Wisconsin. We are partnering with the DPI, the PSC, and the Cooperative Education Services Agency (CESA) to build a funding path for student internet access. We are also partnering with DPI and the Wisconsin Coalition for Expanding School-Based Mental Health to establish a funding path to support school-based mental health.
In addition to these efforts, we are partnering with the Wisconsin Philanthropy Network and the Center for Community & Nonprofit Studies at UW-Madison to promote both funding paths and to recruit more funders once those models are tested. Pilot projects in selected school districts are scheduled for late 2021 and early 2022.
Early financial support
“We are thrilled with the response our approach has already generated,” says Goldberg. Accomplishments so far include:
- A $45,000 PSC grant to support our internet access pilots.
- Pledge of a $100,000 gift from WEA Trust (which Member Benefits will match) for our school-based mental health pilots.
- Additional support from other Member Benefits’ business partners who have pledged $35,000, which Member Benefits will also match.
Goldberg adds, “The total support from our business partners is $135,000—which means our goal of $200,000 is definitely within reach.
“Our ultimate goal is to bring more philanthropy to the table in order to help thousands of student households afford a local internet connection and to strengthen school-based mental health programs throughout the state.”
Want to help?
If you’d like to make a tax-deductible gift to support school-based mental health and/or student internet access, you can:
- Donate online at WEA Member Benefits Foundation.
- Send your check to: WEA Member Benefits Foundation, 660 John Nolen Dr., Madison, WI 53713
All donations received by 12/31/21 will be matched up to an aggregate of $200,000.
*Consultant to WEA Member Benefits Foundation representing Steve Goldberg Consulting, LLC.
PRESS RELEASE: Art Contest Opportunity for Wisconsin Public School Students
WEA Member Benefits adds theme for fifth annual student art contest
Madison, WI, April 6, 2020
Get ready for adventure with the Fifth Annual WEA Member Benefits Student Art Contest!
New in 2020, the contest now has a theme: Adventure and Explore. Art submissions can include places students have traveled or dream of traveling to, an imaginary place, a person or creature that is adventurous or likes to explore, or students are able to provide their own creative interpretation of Adventure and Explore.
Again, this year, monetary prizes from the WEA Member Benefits Foundation, Inc., will be awarded to ten student winners, and one student artist will receive the “Loeymae Lange Best in Class” award. The “Best in Class” award is named in memory of Loeymae Lange, a former art teacher at Cooper Elementary school in Burlington, Wisconsin. Her brother, Dr. Paul Lange, and his wife June are honoring Loeymae’s legacy and love for art by providing this memorial gift to the WEA Member Benefits Foundation, Inc.
“To see this contest entering its fifth year is extremely exciting and a testament to the talented students and art teachers we have across Wisconsin,” said David Kijek, WEA Member Benefits President and CEO. “We are grateful to be able to use Dr. Lange’s generous gift to honor his sister’s legacy and promote recognition and positive self-esteem for student artists.”
The deadline to enter the 2020 student art contest is Thursday, April 30, 2020. Students can submit art projects done at home during the Safer at Home order. Finalists will be announced around May 19. The student finalists and their teachers will be recognized at a student art show in Madison in August.
More information about the art contest, including contest rules, eligibility, and art submission information is available at WEA Member Benefits.