Providing a leg up to Marfa students

Marfa ISD seniors Bryan Torres and Jarad Forristal from the robotics team, the Robohorns, work closely with a robot at a Marfa ISD robotics laboratory. The Marfa Education Foundation has enabled the students to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math, and participate in regional and statewide competitions. The Robohorns are led by Marfa High School robotics teacher Robert Klockman. 

Contributing to successful academic experiences that will help prepare students for college and beyond is what drives the innovative non-profit organization, Marfa Education Foundation.

The Foundation was established 10 years ago to support Marfa public schools and to fundraise for programs that might not be in the school’s budget. Marfa resident Jenny Moore, President of the Foundation, also serves as director of the Chinati Foundation, an internationally known contemporary art museum in Marfa.

The Education Foundation funds everything from early college high school programs, the robotics program, Marfa Live Arts, literacy programs, and many others geared towards helping students realize high academic goals and succeed in extracurricular activities.

“Despite the growth and development in Marfa, our enrollment has been going down, while property taxes in town have been going up, and that creates a deficit in our school budget,” said Moore.

According to Moore, although 75% of the children in Marfa ISD are economically disadvantaged, Marfa ISD classifies as a rich school district because of the town’s property tax scale.

She added, “We have to send money back to Austin, and that creates a burden in our school system. So the need became very clear for an entity that could help the schools raise money and help support them economically.”

Recently, the Foundation has focused on supporting teachers and providing grants of up to $1,000 to help them purchase school supplies, special calculators, books for their students, and more. The Foundation, which currently has seven board members, also works closely with school administrators such as Marfa ISD Superintendent Oscar Aguero.

Secretary Marilyn Sanders, a dedicated volunteer and Marfa resident, has been instrumental in grant writing endeavors. According to Sanders, over a period of about six years, the Foundation’s annual budget has increased from roughly $6,000 to $154,000, all used for specific programs in the schools.

About 30% of funding comes from individual donors, and about 70% from grants. Sanders said that since December 2019, the Foundation has received awards totaling $47,000 from organizations such as the Wayne & Jo Ann Moore Foundation, the Permian Basin Area Foundation, and the Tocker Foundation.

Students’ wide variety of academic achievements pay off, whether providing leverage for them to apply for and obtain college scholarships, or allowing them to engage in science and technology related pursuits.

Several years ago, the robotics team from Marfa traveled to an international robotics competition in St. Louis, Missouri, thanks to support from the Marfa Education Foundation. 

Moore noted, “For many kids, it was their first trip to a big city, or even out of the state.” Foundation board members live and work in Marfa, and include parents of students enrolled in Marfa schools, retirees, and even non-parents. The board members all recognize that a successful, vibrant school is an essential part of a healthy community, and they volunteer their time to make sure that the school has the much-needed financial support.

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