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CSFB’s First 20 Years: Reflections from the Executive Director

Twenty years in Baltimore. Twenty years of bringing to life the hopes and dreams of parents who want a better life, a sound educational foundation, and a school experience that works for their children. Twenty years of making a difference for more than 7,500 students.

When I came to Children’s Scholarship Fund Baltimore seven years ago, I was engaged in the mission on a personal level. We had purchased a home in a neighborhood that fed into a top elementary, middle, and high school system. But as exceptional as the public schools were, they were not working for our daughter. She learns best through experience and even with a 19:1 teacher to student ratio, she was not getting what she needed to excel.

So we selected a Montessori-influenced school 30 minutes from our home where she blossomed. Five years later, she chose to re-enroll in our public school and continued to excel.  Without the opportunity to “afford” her the kind of education that was best for her learning style, I am not sure if she ever would have come to love learning.

This spring, Sarah graduated from college with plans to begin a master’s program. I sat in the stadium during her graduation and reflected on her trajectory and our pride in her accomplishments. It occurred to me that the opportunities she was afforded came from our socio-economic position, my husband’s and my education role models, – including both of our mothers who pursued and received graduate degrees in their 40’s – our commitment, and our resources to make this happen.

CSFB gives this same opportunity to parents and guardians who do not have the same resources our family was so fortunate to enjoy. It provides students the chance to learn the way they need to, find the supportive environment they seek, and, ultimately, to thrive in their education and beyond.

CSFB gives this same opportunity to parents and guardians who do not have the same resources our family was so fortunate to enjoy. It provides students the chance to learn the way they need to, find the supportive environment they seek, and, ultimately, to thrive in their education and beyond.”

 

– Beth Sandbower Harbinson, Executive Director, CSFB

There are so many people responsible for making CSFB the program it is today. I want to call out a special few who have gone above and beyond to make it all possible.

First, I want to acknowledge our founder Suzanna Duvall. Her vision and passionate commitment to this program and its work continue today. After 20 years, she is still involved. She is there for events, she helps us track down alumni, and she continues to support CSFB financially as well.

I also want to acknowledge our early and sustaining support from Baltimore foundations. Without their enduring assistance, we would not be able to continue our work and maintain such low overhead costs, committing over 80 percent of our annual revenue to our program.

The CSFB Board of Trustees, chaired by Kate Powell, does a lot of the heavy lifting. The board meets quarterly but works consistently to engage donors, review our financials, chair campaigns, assist with communications and marketing, and never say “no.”

I also want to recognize a member of the CSFB family who will be leaving us shortly. This July, Matt Wyskiel will formally leave our board after 16 years of service. Matt has served as our Chair and Treasurer and was volunteer interim Executive Director for several months.

In addition, Matt and his wife Christy started an extremely successful event – the Baltimore Next Generation Investing Event – that supports CSFB and other school choice organizations. It continues to be one of our largest annual fundraisers.

On one of my first days of work, Matt sat at a desk in our two-room office, enjoying a large bag of M&M’s and offered, before I sat down, to complete a data entry project for me. I declined his gracious offer but tell this story because this is who Matt is; he exemplifies the commitment our board makes to this organization.

As we close out CSFB’s first 20 years, our $1 million Fund the Future campaign, chaired by Tom and Dori Kelso, also comes to a successful conclusion. CSFB students and schools are worthy of the support of donors who care about cost-effective ways to create measurable, sustainable and significant change for the young people we commit to supporting from K through 8th grade.

Thanks to Fund the Future and other campaigns, CSFB has positioned itself to be financially viable in a sustained manner and able to tackle the next steps in automation and future fundraising.

I cannot predict the future – change is inevitable. However, I do believe that we will never substantively change our program or its goals. We double the chances a low-income child will graduate from high school. That is life changing. And worth continuing for at least the next 20 years!

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