April 17, 2019
EPISD Education Foundation impacting students in the classroom and in college

The EPISD Education Foundation has been making an impact on students in the El Paso Independent School District for nearly 25 years. Since it was founded in 1994, the organization has provided more than $1 million in Classroom Impact Grants to teachers and scholarships to graduating seniors.

The Paso del Norte Community Foundation has helped the EPISD Education Foundation achieve its mission by providing administrative and fundraising support. The collaboration is growing the resources available to make a difference for students and teachers.

In Fall 2018, 20 teachers were awarded $1,000 grants to help provide supplies and materials for some of the innovative projects that teachers had proposed for their students during the school year.

One such teacher is Silva Health Magnet’s Guadalupe Tapia. Silva is the only school in the district which offers a curriculum for students interested in studying biotechnology.

“Biotechnology equipment is very expensive,” Tapia said. “EPISD provides some support through the budget but what they give me each year is not enough to cover materials or equipment for the four classes biotechnology classes I teach. Every single student needs new materials and these materials can’t be recycled or reused in the next class.”

With the help of Classroom Impact Grants, Tapia is assisting students in becoming better prepared for college and having a leg up should they choose biotechnology as their career path.

“One of the items I was able to acquire is known as a crisper kit.  It just came on the market and is used to test and modify genes,” said Tapia. “I want my students to be trained to do research and to have the skills to work at a university level and offer them the latest technology on the market so they can have an idea about what is new in genetics, GMOs, proteins. This way, in college they already have an idea of what teachers are talking about and they already have the practice.”

Russell Wiggs, president of the EPISD Education Foundation, knows firsthand how hard teachers work to provide these extras to their students. Not only is he a former EPISD school board member, he is also a husband, brother, brother-in-law and uncle to several teachers in the El Paso community.

“Most teachers have what they need but we provide them with that little extra that enhances their students’ experience,” said Wiggs.

Wiggs said that the education foundation's goal is to provide as many scholarships to graduating seniors as possible and raise more money each year.

“This year we are partnering with L&F Distributors for the STARS scholarship,” Wiggs said. “Kids who receive the scholarship will get $1,000 and L&F is helping to double and triple that amount depending on which school in Texas they attend for as long as they stay in school.”

It is partnerships with the community and fundraisers that have helped make the EPISD Education Foundation a vital part of shaping the lives of El Paso students.

“It benefits all of El Paso when we help our nonprofits,” Wiggs said. “Helping improve education or continuing education, feeding the homeless, helping with healthcare -- all of those benefit everyone in El Paso and helps improve the quality of life. The Paso del Norte Community Foundation helps nonprofits as a funding vehicle, as well as keeps funds secure and earning interest.”

For more information on Classroom Impact Grants, the STARS scholarship and the EPISD Education Foundation, visit: https://www.episd.org/educationfoundation.