On the RISE – Our Latest Fundraising Victory

I am so excited to share our latest victory with you – Jefferson RISE has raised over half of our planning year goal, in just two months!  Today’s calculations put the current total at $159,895 and rising.  Since fundraising began in October, Jefferson RISE has averaged an astonishing $2,251 per day in donations.  Donations made during this time allow Jefferson RISE to hire the best teachers and provide them with the support, training and tools they need for next fall.  Each dollar raised helps build a safe, structured, and scholarly environment for students on the road to college.

Reaching the halfway mark came after experiencing a donation “domino effect.”  Last week, Jefferson RISE received the green light on a “sizeable contribution” (alluded to in my previous blog post) of $25,000 donation from the Jefferson Community Foundation, which brought the total to $79,885.  The Foundation’s gift could not have come at a better time.  The RISE Team had spent weeks working around the clock to meet an anonymous donor’s conditions: If Jefferson RISE could raise $75,000 on our own by December 1st, the anonymous donor would match the funds.  The Foundation’s gift pushed us just over $75,000, which triggered the additional $75,000 match, instantly doubling our assets.

To all who have donated, words cannot express how thankful I am for your kindness, especially over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Small, individual donations were instrumental in reaching our first major milestone – 83% of our donors give between $20 and $200.

On December 2, Jefferson RISE participated in #GivingTuesday, an international day for giving thanks and giving back.  Many of you joined us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to share the spirit of giving with your friends and family and to encourage friends in your network to donate.  In twenty-four hours we raised $1,585.  Our story was spread from one family member to another, across state lines and into your living rooms.  Thank you for allowing us to share the holidays with you, and for giving everyone at Jefferson RISE a lot to be thankful for this year.

It may seem small in comparison to the goal, but the funds raised on #GivingTuesday are very important.  The $1,585 we raised is enough to purchase intervention math and literacy software, books, furniture, technology, and supplies for two 6th grade students. Jefferson RISE is dedicated to preparing all students for college and careers – we need the appropriate tools and resources to accomplish this task.  There are no shortcuts in providing an excellent education and we will not settle for less.

Looking Forward…

December marks a shift for Jefferson RISE.  You may start to see us around town, as we give Jefferson parents the opportunity to learn more about our program.  I am patiently awaiting responses from numerous grants, and will continue to submit an increasing amount of grant applications this spring.  The funds we have raised so far will sustain operations through early spring, allowing my focus to shift to hiring, recruitment, and facilities planning.  This is a luxury we never thought we would achieve so quickly.

The halfway mark is certainly cause for celebration.  But we cannot pause for even a second.  Jefferson RISE will use this wonderful momentum to launch itself into the next phase of fundraising.  We wouldn’t have our early successes without the help of our supporters.  Thank you for being a part of our team, our family, and our journey.  I can only hope that every update from On the RISE is as happy as today’s post.

On the RISE – The Beginning


Opening a new school certainly keeps a Lead Founder on her toes…  For years I was a teacher, developing my own educational model and observing school culture and systems from inside the classroom. Eventually, observing turned into planning. After the planning came an endless stream of meetings and applications. There were applications for the meetings, meetings about applications, and even a meeting about the meetings. The school needs classrooms, the classrooms need desks, the desks need students, and the students need teachers. While my to-do-list is ever changing, I’ve noticed one constant in my hectic daily schedule: every single morning, as I rush from one side of Jefferson Parish to the other, I encounter dozens of inquisitive faces, all asking the same question:

Any updates on Jefferson RISE?  

From the checkout line at the grocery store to an elevator packed with strangers, the questions and anticipation have become a part of my day-to-day life. Today, there are a few specific questions that I’d like to address. As many of you know, we recently embarked on a massive fundraising effort so that Jefferson RISE can open in the fall. Every Tuesday at the Westbank Rotary, I’m greeted by friendly inquiries about our progress. The truth is, my answers to these questions change almost daily. Jefferson RISE is growing and developing at lightning speed. Each day brings with it a new set of victories and challenges.

I am writing this blog to tell the story of Jefferson RISE from the very beginning, to tell you what we are working on, to share our successes and struggles, and to give you a glimpse into the world of Jefferson RISE – because there are questions that deserve answers and stories that deserve telling.

If you’re new to the Jefferson RISE community, you can take a minute to explore our website and learn a little about the Jefferson RISE Board or my personal journey from chemistry teacher to Lead Founder. For this inaugural blog post, I’d like to skip ahead to Jefferson RISE’s most recent milestone. On September 3 2014, after an extensive application and review process, Jefferson RISE Charter School was approved by the Jefferson Parish School Board. The entire Jefferson RISE team dedicated thousands of man hours leading up to that day. It took Board meetings, planning, networking, application forms, and approximately 1,096 cups of coffee to reach September 3.

Unfortunately, the excitement was short lived. Just two weeks later, we found out that our startup money was reallocated. All of Jefferson RISE’s start-up expenses, from the time of authorization this past September until we open next fall, must be covered by fundraising efforts. These expenses are not optional and go directly toward Jefferson RISE’s general operations, facilities, materials, training, and staffing over the next year. Once students enter our classrooms next fall, Jefferson RISE will receive federal, state, and local funding. The Jefferson RISE Board sprang into action immediately upon hearing that the circumstances had changed. We are fundraising day and night to reach $300,000, the amount needed for an August 2015 opening.

To date, the Board has raised $57,385. That number includes contributions from foundations, local businesses, and individual donors, and it is constantly growing. Each day we tally up the new numbers and add to the list of outstanding grant applications and private funding proposals we have submitted. I see donation alerts pop up on my phone throughout the day, excited to see a $100 donation from a familiar name, and inspired by the $40 donation from a new supporter I’ve yet to meet. It’s encouraging, but we still have a long way to go.

The results of this next week are critical.

If we reach $75,000 by December 1, an anonymous donor has pledged to match that amount, bringing us to a total of $150,000, and halfway to our $300,000 goal. After some quick math, that means we need $18,615 in the next 6 days. That’s just over $3,000 per day. We are waiting to hear back regarding approval on a sizeable contribution, but in the meantime Jefferson RISE will be launching a #GivingTuesday fundraising campaign. I’ll be sure to post the most current updates regarding our progress on the Jefferson RISE Facebook Page.

In other news, with the new year fast approaching, Jefferson RISE has begun the hiring process! For the 2015-2016 school year, we are seeking seven teachers, an Office Coordinator, an Operations Manager, and a Dean of Student Supports. Job descriptions are posted on our website, and applications for these positions will go live on Wednesday.

That’s all for now. Be sure to check back here or head over to our Facebook and Twitter for the latest Jefferson RISE news.

251 days until the doors open.  (2 days until turkey.  Happy Thanksgiving.)

All the best,