Chesterton Tribune

Duneland Education Foundation new director hits the ground running

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With a new executive director in place and new ambitious goals, the Duneland Education Foundation is gearing up for its next big event.

“Duneland Stars Shine On” will be a variety show featuring the singing, dancing, and other artistic talents of Chesterton High School alumni. In the works for more than a year, the show will be June 18 in the CHS Auditorium at 7 p.m.

The alumni are returning to Chesterton from their various jobs and families throughout the country, with at least one traveling from California. As DEF Board President Mike Anton put it: “They got something from CHS, and now they’re going to give something back to the Duneland Education Foundation.”

The event is part of a renewed focus by DEF not just to continue to support the Duneland Schools financially through its educational grants, but to enhance and expand on that level of support.

“We have to maintain the Duneland Difference,” Anton said. “Some people think we’ve lost the Duneland Difference. We need to get it back.”

And just how to do that includes DEF, which provides grants for projects and programs proposed by teachers. If any of the Duneland Difference has indeed been lost, Anton said he thinks it’s because the community has been distracted by state and local politics, funding cuts, and assigning blame. What’s needed, he said, is a refocus on what the Duneland Schools do best -- and that includes strong community partnerships with groups such as DEF.

DEF provides funding for teacher professional development and school projects that either aren’t part of the regular school budget or which used to be before funding cuts. This year, for example, DEF is doubling its funding for summer school scholarships, committing $2,000 total to help families pay the summer school fees. DEF scholarships will provide $100 per student, with the remaining $25 paid for by the student.

But while the grants are an important part of DEF and will continue, the foundation intends to do more -- such as its ambitious project to provide every student with a take-home lap top.

To help guide the foundation in its fundraising and grant programs is newly hired executive director, Christine Kostbade of Liberty Township. She said she plans to beef up promotion of the foundation so that more people are aware of its work, as well as to seek public input as the foundation works to strengthen its role in the Duneland Schools.

“My job is to take the foundation to the next level,” Kostbade said.

To fund its educational grants, the DEF hosts various fundraisers. While the most popular may the the annual $10,000 scholarship raffle, the approximately $3,500 that DEF clears from the raffle is hardly enough to cover its grant program, which this year is budgeted at $25,000. So DEF needs to turn to the community with other fundraisers, such as its golf outing in July and, for the second year in a row, the DEF Derby in August.

Making a Difference

Kostbade, a mother of three, is now the third executive director in the foundation’s history.

She has worked for nearly 20 years in the mental health field serving children and adolescents. In the last four years she has been with the Hilltop Neighborhood House as its marketing coordinator. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and earned a master’s from Valparaiso University.

Kostbade said her family moved to the Duneland community from Hobart specifically because of the Duneland Schools and the rich programming offered.

She said when the DEF director’s job became available, she saw the opportunity to bring her background in youth and in marketing to a position aimed at strengthening the local schools.

“It attracted me because I wanted to help make a difference,” she said.

“Stars Shine On”

The June 18 show is billed as a “Night of Performances and Reunion,” reflecting the fact that the performers will be CHS alumni. The show is directed by Linda Pauli. The promotional posters were designed by CHS alumni Emma Helminski, who now works as a graphic artist in California.

Among those who have committed to peform so far are: Courtney Brankle, Mikael Bryan, Marissa Flaxbart, Zach Gipson, David Haro, Mary Herrod, KC Higley, Melissa Kolasa and Aubry Spanapolous, Tom McClure, Dean Perrine and Jodi Searle, Melanie Poparad, and Michael Urbano. A number of other performers are pending and will be announced later.

The acts will be various, including a piano solo, group dance, and a showing of a documentary trailer.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for students.

Tickets are available by calling the foundation at 983-3715 or at the following sites: CHS, Anton Insurance, 1st State Bank of Porter, 1st Source Bank north and south locations, and Ace Hardware.



Posted 6/3/2011