Pat Sasse was hired as Bright Minds Foundation’s first executive director in 2009, and has been working since with the board and the school administration to establish the nonprofit in the community. Sasse spent her earlier career at the Social Security Administration, where she held increasingly responsible management positions and retired as the deputy director of the Baltimore Call Center. Here Sasse reflects on where the foundation stands today, after a decade of support to the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS).
The Bright Minds Foundation is the Howard County Public School System’s (HCPSS) educational foundation, created in 2006 to support HCPSS students. It is governed by a board made up of private citizens who meet regularly to plan and oversee the successful pursuit of its mission. There are two employees who manage the day-to-day work and implement the programs. The board and employees consult HCPSS staff to determine emerging needs and then work to raise private funding to help fill those needs. Our mission statement is: “We support education, aspirations and the opportunity to succeed for all students in the Howard County Public School System.”
You might know Bright Minds as the nonprofit organization that provides technology to students who don’t have access at home. And, yes, that has been our signature program from the beginning, and we’ve continued because the need continues to grow. Over the years, we have donated almost 1,000 computers to students and families who otherwise would not have this tool at their fingertips. Our motto has been: “Imagine not having a computer when you go home…” Our program has ensured that disadvantaged students can cross the digital divide to succeed and that their parents have access to school information online. We know this program is changing lives, and we have many stories that illustrate this.
What you may not know about are the other programs in place to support students. Our Staff and Teacher Grant program has allowed HCPSS educators to implement classroom enrichment projects ranging from STEM projects like geocaching, using handheld GPS equipment purchased with grant funds, to health initiatives, like the purchase of heart rate monitors for middle school students to use when they exercise in physical education classes. One teacher introduced electrophoresis (DNA fingerprinting techniques!) to her class, another has brought the art of playwriting taught by actual play writers into high school classrooms, and others have commissioned original compositions for their band students to play for the first time. Grants range from $500 to $2,000 each, and they are competitive. Staff members complete applications describing their projects and how they help fulfill the Bright Minds’ mission, and selections are made by Bright Minds board members serving on the Grants Review team. This program has provided over $100,000 in small grants across the school system over the years, and we will award several more in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!
We are excited to describe our newest program, Driving Student Success. We have set up a separate fund to raise money to increase the number of after-school activity buses available to any student who wants to participate in a variety of after-school programs but until now did not have an option to return home. Launched in November 2015, through collaboration with District 1 Councilman Jon Weinstein, we have been able to fund extra buses at six schools since January, with donations provided by local businesses. A list of the businesses who have contributed and information about how you can also contribute to the fund can be found at www.drivingstudentsuccess.org. We are collecting statistical data about the first six months of the program and will share it on this website and in our regular newsletters.
In summary, we honor the many generous donors in our community who have committed to supporting our students and our outstanding educational system by contributing to programs that provide opportunity for all. Anyone seeking more information about the Bright Minds Foundation can visit www.brightmindsfoundation.org or contact me, Executive Director Pat Sasse, at 410-740-0707.