Since 2009, the Cross Keys Foundation has advocated for those at the high school, Sequoyah Middle School, and Oakcliff, Cary Reynolds, Dresden, Montclair and Woodward elementary schools. Founder Kim Gokce said the nonprofit was formed because he felt like the schools and their students were often overlooked by the community at large.
“Nobody was really speaking up about the young people and their quality and their accomplishments and their achievements as students,” he said.
Gokce explained the population served by the schools is generally low-income with about 85 percent or more receiving free and reduced lunch. Many families have immigrated to the U.S. and may not quite understand the politics of the public school system, he added.
The first program the foundation started was the scholarship program.
“Each year we award three individual graduating seniors a $1,000 scholarship for their continued education,” Gokce said.
He added their local students have been the recipients of national scholarships, like the Gates Millennium Scholarship, but are often faced with the challenges of not being able to afford books or room and board.
The foundation also works to provide special educational opportunities for students and to help get teachers the resources they need.
“When it comes to things like clubs or assemblies that are special events, those types of things are difficult or impossible to fund with federal dollars,” Gokce said.
The foundation has raised money to bring science assemblies to the schools and a two-day workshop for fourth and fifth graders to learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The group solicits classroom donations by tapping into the website donorschoose.org where teachers post their needs or wish list items online. The foundation circulates those requests through their networks.
“We have an understanding of the power of social media and we’ve leveraged it to the fullest,” Gokce said.
The foundation will hold its annual scholarship recognition ceremony in May.