YouthBridge Endowment Funds: Parkway Alumni Association

“Since COVID, a lot of educators have been leaving the field,” says Sandy Riutcel. “It’s so important that we encourage and support them, and show them how much we need and appreciate them. Our children’s futures depend on it.” Riutcel, Executive Director of the Parkway Alumni Association (PAA), is not alone in her observations. Data from across the country indicates that teachers – under unprecedented strain due to the pandemic – are leaving in unprecedented droves.

PAA, entering its 30th year, has been doing its part to recognize the special impact of teachers and school staff through a number of grant and recognition programs. “The association was initially started because the school district wanted to do a better job of tracking alumni,” says Riutcel. “Over the last three decades, we’ve grown into so much more, fostering programs that acknowledge those who make a difference in our schools and that encourage educational opportunities for Parkway students.”

Every year, PAA selects teachers to represent the district at the state-level competition for teacher of the year, recognizes teachers in the first five years of their career, and honors staff members who have helped to create a positive and caring environment. Teachers also can apply for grants to help bring activities outside of the base curriculum to their students. For students, PAA provides financial assistance for extracurricular learning and even pursuing business ideas through its Granting Dreams program.

Many of these activities, says Riutcel, are supported by family or memorial funds. In 2022, PAA has set up three endowment funds with YouthBridge that will maximize funds and provide “value in perpetuity,” she says. “When I was hired as Executive Director three years ago, our earnings were limited to what our bank accounts were yielding. Low-risk accounts with little gains.” Riutcel says she and several Board members were aware of the earnings power of endowments and sought to hire an endowment fund manager, landing on YouthBridge.

“YouthBridge is a good fit and have proven great to work with – flexible, seamless setup – I’m really excited about the potential,” she says. The three funds include a main endowment fund for the association and two established in memory of individuals that will support specific grants. The first, yet to be officially announced, pays tribute to a local minister who for years volunteered as scorekeeper at many Parkway North games. The fund will provide college scholarships to Parkway North students that have been involved in athletics.

The second, The Andrea Cohen Memorial Fund, is named for a Parkway North alumni and former PAA Board member whose acting career took her to Broadway and national TV. The fund will support students with an interest in fine arts, covering the costs of performing arts camps, fine art courses and art supplies. Riutcel says Cohen was active in the PAA Granting Dreams program before her life was cut short by cancer.

“Granting Dreams is one of the most exciting programs we offer, supporting some amazing experiences for students – once even whitewater rafting for a student in a wheelchair – and I’m so happy that we’ll be able to make some young artists’ dreams come true in her name.”