ELKHART ISD initiates scholarship foundation

Commercial Bank of Texas representatives donate $10,000 toward a new education foundation at Elkhart Independent School District Thursday. From left: Lamont Smith, EISD superintendent; Jessica Jones, branch manager and vice president; Martha Tyer, loan officer and assistant branch manager, Elkhart; Christina Chapin, lending assistant; and Tana Herring, director of special populations for Elkhart ISD.

Elkhart Independent School District is establishing a foundation that will award college scholarships to graduating seniors beginning in 2021. Two factors making the new foundation possible include the school board’s approval and a donation of $10,000 from Commercial Bank of Texas.

The bank’s donation Thursday, Dec. 17 provides seed money that will encourage donations from other businesses and individuals. 

The Elkhart school board approved the nonprofit’s charter last month to improve students’ chances of success after graduation. Among 2020 graduates, 40% enrolled in a college or university. The district’s graduation rate is between 95 to 100%. 

Superintendent Lamont Smith said many Elkhart graduates need financial help to afford college, as 60% come from households below poverty level. Elkhart schools recently began a free breakfast and lunch program for all students. 

“We want graduating students to have resources necessary to help them reach their highest goals and aspirations,” Smith said. “This foundation creates the opportunity to get started.

“My focus is when they leave here, they will have choices and opportunities and they graduate with more than a diploma.”

CBTX often supports Elkhart’s athletic and academic programs, contributing roughly $5,000 per year since 2017. Area Vice President Jessica Jones said all CBTX branches support their communities.

Based in Nacogdoches, CBTX operates branches in Elkhart, Palestine, and 18 more throughout East and Northeast Texas. CBTX is the only bank in Elkhart, serving the school district, individuals, and other local organizations.

“This community supports us and we couldn’t be here without the people in this community,” Jones said. “One of our cornerstones is that the bank can only prosper if the community prospers.” 

Educational foundations are common in Texas school districts. Lancaster and Corsicana, two districts Smith worked for prior to joining Elkhart in 2018, both have foundations. 

An appointed board of directors will supervise the foundation’s activities, such as fundraising and appointing a committee to review scholarship applications. 

If sufficient funds become available, the foundation could expand its scope, awarding scholarships to paraprofessionals to help them pursue career growth.

For information about the foundation, email Educationfoundation@elkhartisd.org or contact Rachel Glenn at the Elkhart ISD Administration Office at 903-764-8546.

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