Naperville Education Foundation: Helping students by supporting families

February 02, 2023 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Funding from Edward-Elmhurst Health is helping a local school district launch a program that not only meets students’ mental and behavioral health needs, but also addresses the needs of students’ families.

This new program is being funded in part through Edward-Elmhurst Health’s Community Investment Fund. In July 2022, Edward-Elmhurst Health awarded $3,994,000 to 14 organizations across Cook, DuPage and Will Counties with the goal of advancing health equity and supporting local economic growth.

The program, RISE, was launched as a partnership between the Naperville Education Foundation (NEF) and the Naperville Community School District 203. NEF was created in 1992 with the mission of encouraging creativity, innovation and excellence in the district’s students.

“We remove barriers to learning and make sure students can make the most of the high-quality education the district provides,” says Wendy Goettsch, Executive Director of NEF. 

The foundation raises funds and awards grants to programs that enhance and enrich the educational experience of District 203 students through opportunities that go above and beyond the district’s tax-supported budget.  

RISE – which stands for Removing barriers, Individualized support plan, Services for students and Empowering families – began at the outset of the 2022-2023 school year in seven of the district’s 14 elementary schools. 

The program helps address the growing number of students in the school district with mental and behavioral needs.

“We are addressing the needs of the student and the entire family so the student can make the most of their education,” says Goettsch.

RISE removes barriers for students and families to receive physical, mental and social-emotional care. The program operates in two parts: the first is services and programs provided on-site during the school day. The second is wraparound services for the student’s family. 

“The district is bringing mental health services on-site and we are funding wraparound services to address the individual needs of the family,” says Goettsch.

The CIF funding will enable RISE to help with family expenses that are not covered through other agency resources. This can include medical and dental care, food, shelter, specialized counseling, English language courses, transportation, parent education and childcare.

“It’s important to address the needs of our students at an early age,” says Goettsch. “When our students and families are thriving, our whole community thrives.” 

The EEH grant has enabled NEF and District 203 to implement RISE on a larger scale than anticipated. “Initially, we thought we could only launch two elementary schools,” says Goettsch. “With this incredibly generous funding, we were able to launch in seven of our elementary schools, which has been amazing.”

Goettsch says the program is already receiving positive feedback and other district schools are eager to participate as the program grows.

“We are really excited to be able to help our students and families,” she says. “We are a small foundation, but with this grant, this program is going to have a big impact.”

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