For more than 40 years, the volunteers of the Rutland South Rotary Club, where I have been a member for 8 years and served as president since last July, have raised funds for local education and youth-based projects. For all that time, the club has contributed 100% (every single dollar!) of funds raised, to those projects. This year, the need to support education is even more urgent, and COVID-19 has required that we shift gears — literally and figuratively — from our annual raffle and celebration at Spartan Arena. Instead, we are selling $100 raffle tickets for a chance to win a brand-new camper, provided by local RV dealer Dan Kearney.

The club’s support has helped countless young people whose dreams of “what I want to be when I grow up” often begin in kindergarten. While I am fortunate today to have a thriving career as a financial adviser, my journey here was not a linear one, nor was it easy. Like many, my parents had to work long and arduous hours, leaving them with little energy to mentor me or oversee my schoolwork. Though I joined the Rotary South Club for many reasons, a key factor in my choice is the club’s commitment to youth and education, and I hope to inspire others to support those projects as well, through the purchase of raffle tickets for a chance to win the RV.

Tickets are currently available through Rotarians, online at RutlandSouthRotary.org, or at Dan Kearney’s in Center Rutland. Many who have seen the RV have imagined its possibilities beyond a camper: maybe a man-cave, or a she-shed, extra office space, guest quarters, and so on. Not only has Dan Kearney’s been very generous to us in purchasing the RV, but they have offered to store it until spring.

Of course, this is about much more than the chance to win a camper. Vermont has the third oldest population in the U.S., which means that a contribution toward education equals a contribution toward the future of Vermont. Here are just a few education projects Rutland South Rotary Club has funded:

Rutland Rotary South has raised funds for scholarships that have awarded more than $400,000 to students who applied from Rutland High School, MSJ, Proctor, Mill River, Stafford Technical Center and West Rutland. These students enjoyed practicing their interview skills and impressed Rotarians with their accomplishments, volunteerism and extracurriculars.

In 2016, Rotary South transformed and expanded our scholarship program into a grants program, because education costs were rising, and federal financial aid guidelines had changed. The grants program enables us to help those young people who most need our support, so they have the best chance of growing up to become our productive neighbors, co-workers, employees or employers.

Since 2017, the bulk of our requests have come from local teachers and youth-based nonprofits, which our raffle ticket sales have supported as follows:

— Enhanced engagement and effectiveness through the purchase of whiteboard tables at Proctor Elementary and standing desks for Rutland Town School.

— Funded tools and equipment teachers can’t afford to purchase, but are so essential for youth to have access to as technology evolves, and the required knowledge and skills of our workforce follow suit.

— Purchased pneumatic LEGO sets for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Pneumatic LEGOs allow students to design, build and then program, bringing their ideas to life.

— Invested in the expansion of the STEAM/Makerspace at Rutland Middle School, providing adolescents an opportunity to apply what they learn in a textbook to real life problems and solutions.

— Partnered with the Rutland County Parent-Child Center to purchase reusable dishes and flatware, furniture and supplies.

— Purchased new audio/visual equipment for the Fox Room at the Rutland Free Library.

— Funded pop-up exhibits at the Wonderfeet Museum, offering seasonal, hands-on learning opportunities.

— Donated time and money in building Northwest School’s outdoor classroom.

— Funded an activity room for mentors and mentees at Mentor Connector, with comfortable accommodations, computers, games and sporting equipment.

If you believe as I do that our young people are our most valuable resource and our best hope for our state’s future, then I hope you’ll support Rutland Rotary South Club’s fundraiser for 2020 by purchasing raffle tickets for a chance to win the RV. Your contribution could help so many disadvantaged students believe that “what I want to be when I grow up” is not just a dream but well within their reach. What’s more, you’ll be helping their families, our community and the state of Vermont. Visit RutlandSouthRotary.org to learn more about how we’ve invested in youth-based and education projects, and our raffle.

Caitlin M. Perry is a financial adviser at Edward Jones in Rutland.

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