After 30 years, Park City Education Foundation is still changing lives | ParkRecord.com

After 30 years, Park City Education Foundation is still changing lives

Abby McNulty, left, is the executive director of the Park City Education Foundation, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Lynn Cier, right, has been involved with the organization for about 15 years and says it has been instrumental in making Park Citys schools great.

It would have been hard 30 years ago to predict what a $2,000 grant would portend for the future of Park City.

It was 1986 when a collection of dedicated residents formed a group as a sort of district-wide parent-teacher organization and gave out that grant, which sent two students to Stanford for a month-long science camp. Thirty years later, the organization's name remains familiar: The Park City Education Foundation.

Its beginning was small, and received little fanfare, but eventually the foundation became one of the most influential and respected non-profits in Park City. In recent years, it has given more than $1 million annually to fund various programs in the Park City School District. And now, as the foundation celebrates its 30th anniversary, nearly everyone in town knows that it's one of the primary reasons Park City's schools are considered among the best in the state.

Abby McNulty has been the executive director of the foundation for nine years and has shepherded it to its current, unprecedented success. She said that, in many ways, it's hard to imagine that the foundation has been around as long as it has. But the milestone anniversary is proof of what it's meant to the community.

"It is a big deal," she said. "I think it's super exciting. It shows that the foundation has been here, working side by side with the schools, for a really long time. It has worked with so many people over the years, so many dedicated community members and parents. There's such a long, rich history."

The impact the foundation on the schools is hard to understate, said Lynn Cier, a member of the organization's board of directors who also co-chairs one of its grant committees. She has participated in the foundation for about 15 years and said that, while the foundation spreads the word about what it does more these days, its influence "has always been tremendous."

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Many initiatives that are viewed as essential parts of Park City schools, such as the annual Author-in-Residence program, are funded by the foundation. Dozens of new ones begin each year through the grants the foundation gives out three times a year. The importance of the programs, Cier said, is immeasurable — in many ways, it pushes the district from good to great.

"Park City is perceived as a wealthy district, but really budgets are always tight," she said. "There's not money to necessarily experiment. We give the teachers and the district the opportunity to put on some unique programs.

"If we cut it out and took it away, the district would not look like it does. I think people would be surprised."

McNulty said the range of programs the foundation funds is extraordinary. Each school receives money for several projects every year, meaning it would be difficult to find a student who has not benefitted from the foundation's work.

"Thirty years ago, it was two kids," she said. "Now it's every kid in the district. That's pretty amazing. To envision what the schools would be like without the foundation is quite an exercise because there are a lot of programs that we as parents, me included, really enjoy and rely on that are funded by the foundation."

McNulty and Cier acknowledged that it's taken support from the entire community for the foundation to flourish. Thousands of people, they said, have been instrumental in turning it into what it is today. They hope the next 30 years prove to be a continuation of that legacy.

"It's pretty neat when you can call people up and say, 'I'm doing a project for the Education Foundation,' and they say, 'I know what that is and that's important,'" Cier said. "They may not know the nuts and bolts but it's always, 'What do you need?' There a lot of people involved in the PTAs and community councils, and they know what's going on in the schools, but the foundation reaches out a lot further than that, bringing people in."

For more information on the Park City Education Foundation, visit pcef4kids.org.