by Sue Ann Rybak

The Friends of J.S. Jenks, an independent not-for-profit organization whose mission is to “enhance the educational and enrichment opportunities at J.S. Jenks Elementary School in Chestnut Hill will launch a kick-off fundraiser to benefit the school’s art and music program.

Haviva Goldman, president of The Friends of J.S. Jenks (FOJSJ), said the organization evolved out of the need for an independent “fundraising arm” to raise desperately needed funds for enrichment programs.

The organization was the brainchild of a group of parents and prospective parents at Jenks.

“The school needs to have better outreach to the community; it needs to have more involvement and coordination of community partnerships,” said Goldman, whose son is a second-grader at Jenks. “We really need to fundraise in a big way. But, there is only so far you can go when you are working as a home and school association. The way the Home and School Association works is that you have to spend all your money by the end of the school year or target it for something in the school year. You are really limited in how much money you can raise through a Home and School Association.”

After examining various schools that have done large-scale fundraising in the past and researching different options. The group decided to form a non-profit organization. In December, the parents held a meeting upstairs in O’Doodles and established committees.

Goldman said the idea to create a non-profit organization to raise funds for Jenks was discussed in the past. But this year, due to drastic cuts in funding for education, they knew they had to act.

“Given the climate,” Goldman said, “we realized we had to start thinking of new ways to fund enrichment programs.”

Goldman said they got a legal team together, developed a website, wrote a mission statement and. by March. they had a set of bylaws.

“We are working on getting our umbrella coverage for our non-profit status,” Goldman said. “We are confident that we will have that.”

Goldman said The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields offered the organization use of its facilities for the event.

Jarrett Kerbel, said the the church wanted to be supportive of the neighborhood school.

He added that a strong public elementary school “is good for the whole community.”

“The church is exploring ways to be supportive and engaged with Jenks,” Jarrett Kerbel.

He added that right now the church is “listening and paying attention to the needs of The Friends of J.S. Jenks.”

“The parents are really the leaders,” Kerbel said. “We are just exploring how we can be a resource.”

Vanessa Yingling, secretary of FOJSJ and the parent of a third grader and kindergartener, said the school’s music program has opened doors to other opportunities for her daughter.

“Alex had the opportunity to audition for the Community Music Scholars Program through Temple University, all due to the music program at Jenks,” Yingling said. “As a result of her in-school opportunities to develop the skills sets to play both the violin and cello under the guidance of Mr. Westner, she progressed to the point to where she was awarded the chance to learn to prepare in advance and perform up to her expectations under very challenging circumstances.”

Tony Sorrentino, vice-president of The Friends of J.S. Jenks, discussed the “critical role” art and music education programs play in childhood development-both cognitively and emotionally. Besides being fun, the programs provide social opportunities that allow “children to build their self-esteem, branch out, make friends, learn an universal language, and develop new skills.”

He added music and art programs “educate a whole person, a well-rounded person, and should not be superfluous but fundamental.”

“Principal Lynsky has a vision for the school, and we have seen it blossom over the last few years in the increasing test scores and meeting the Adequate Yearly Progress,” Sorrentino said “It is also seen in the music program. Instrumental education, and instruments, the spring musical, the winter concert, happen regularly and impressively. Not every public school can make this happen. I was so moved last year when I learned that when cuts were made to art and music some several teachers gave up time and compensation to see that these programs continue. They are true educators who believe in their mission and our children. How do we begin to repay them? One way is to step up and match their commitment with our own.”

Recently, the “fruits” of J.S. Jenks’ teachers and staff were seen in action at the school’s production of “The Wiz & Wizard of Oz.” Andrew Leland, the music teacher, remarked about the success of the production.

“The popularity of the play – more than 100 students involved out of a 500-student population – shows you how important music is to the students, parents, teachers and administration at Jenks,” Leland said. “We provide our students with numerous performing opportunities in school and throughout the community. What sets our music department from other schools is our dedication in providing students with the fundamentals of music knowledge while creating lessons that are cross-curricular with other subject areas. The music teachers at Jenks take great pride in inspiring growth in students by giving them tools to take into other disciplines and into other domains of their lives.”

Sorrentino said the community plays an important role in helping “young people who are at the beginning of their education and at a critical time in learning how to learn to become good citizens.”

He said the district’s cuts “could negatively impact the quality of education.”

“The Friends of Jenks is hoping to raise the level of dialogue among a wide circle of stakeholders that benefit from its success such as residents, business owners, and civic leaders. Generating independent support and resources will inoculate Jenks from the volatility in the School District, and the Commonwealth budget uncertainty surrounding general funding for public education.”

J.S. Jenks Principal Mary Lynskey was ecstatic about the creation of the non-profit organization.

“The energy and enthusiasm we’ve seen in parent committees is unstoppable, and our kids can’t wait for the district to figure it out,” Lynskey said.

Lynskey said music and art programs are “key to academic success.”

“Engaging kids in their talent gives them the confidence to transfer across disciplines,” Lynskey added.

“A high tide lifts all boats.”

The Friends of Jenks Kick-Off Fundraiser will be held Saturday, June 9, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at

The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, 8000 St. Martins Lane, Chestnut Hill. There will be hors d’oeuvres and refreshments, a silent auction, a raffle and live music. The suggested donation is $20 each, $30 for two and $40 per family. All proceeds from the fundraiser will help support the Music and Arts programs at The John Story Jenks Elementary School. All donations will be tax deductible. The Friends of J.S. Jenks is also seeking gift certificates or gift baskets for the silent raffle.

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