It’s been a good year for Center Grove Education Foundation (CGEF) Executive Director Jennifer Rakow. After being hired to serve the foundation in August, she has gotten to lead the organization as it hosted its three annual fundraisers and gave away $53,000 in grants during the 2016-17 school year: 10 professional development grants and 25 teacher grants.
“It has been a great experience,” she said. “We are blessed to live in such an amazing community that is so supportive of all things Center Grove Schools.”
Jennifer grew up in Owosso, Mich., graduating from Owosso High School. She finished her undergrad at Indiana University. Before having her children, she lived on the Southside of Indianapolis and worked with the National Institute for Fitness and Sport for five years. She lived in Tennessee for a couple years.
Jennifer and her husband, Derek, moved to the Center Grove area in 2003. It was a priority for them to find a good school system and purchased their house specifically so their sons, Chris, 19 and Cooper, 12, could attend the Center Grove Community School Corporation.
Jennifer worked five years at Saints Francis & Clare Catholic School in religious education and youth ministry before coming to CGEF in August 2016.
In the last year, Jennifer said CGEF has funded some interesting projects, including a 3D laser printer to be used at Center Grove Middle School Central, an incubator for a microbiology class at the high school, and supporting extracurriculars such as robotics and choir. While things are going well, the board continues to think up ways to earn more donations.
One such change will be the fall fundraiser. While the annual Toast of the Town has been a success, Jennifer said she and the board feel it has run its course. Instead, in September, the foundation will host a Casino Night. CGEF will continue its two other annual fundraisers: a Pacers Night and Gala for the Grove in the spring.
“Another focus we will probably make, while we are so thankful for the 30-plus corporate donors we had this year, I think we can do a better job at reaching out to the community. There is some untapped potential of giving from individuals in the community… The Center Grove Scholarship Fund, a branch of the education foundation, does a phone-a-thon. We had students come in for four evenings and had them make phone calls. We had $28,000 pledged from individuals… That’s a perfect example of the difference individual support can make.”
Jennifer said they reach more individual donors by increasing awareness of CGEF: making appearances at school functions, placing information in school newsletters and connecting with parents. CGEF will celebrate 20 years this coming school year, so Jennifer said they are looking forward to raising awareness by highlighting people that started the foundation and telling the story of how they helped CGEF get to where it is today.
Outside of work, Jennifer and her family are parishioners at Saints Francis & Clare Catholic Church. Jennifer will volunteer this summer for Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County’s Women’s Build.
Here, learn more about our July Center Grove ICON of the Month, Jennifer Rakow.
What do you consider your greatest virtue? My faith
What do you most deplore in others? Arrogance
What do you like most about living in Center Grove? Community support
If you had to live anywhere else in the Metro Indianapolis area, where would it be? Downtown Indianapolis
If you could begin life over, what would you change? Life goes by quickly. I would take more time to enjoy the ride.
If money were no issue, how would you spend it? Travel
What makes you happiest? My family
What is your favorite vacation spot? The beach
What do you do with idle time? What idle time? ☺
What is it that makes you angry? People who think the rules do not apply to them
What do you do to escape from reality? Spending time with friends
What or who is the greatest love of your life? My husband Derek
Which living person in Center Grove do you most admire? Erin Smith – She has an amazing love for this community and strives to give back in everything she does. She is involved in everything!
What is the quality you like most in a man? Commitment
What is the quality you like most in a woman? Strength
What is your greatest extravagance? There isn’t anything that I spend a lot of money on. I consider myself to be very thrifty. My family might call me cheap.
What are your fears/phobias? Mice
What has been the happiest time of your life? Being a mom to our boys, Chris (19) and Cooper (12)
Which talent would you most like to possess? The ability to sing, as I absolutely cannot carry a tune.
What do you most value in your friends? Loyalty
Which historical figure do you most admire? Mother Teresa
What is your greatest regret? Wasting time worrying about things in which I had no control.
What tenet do you live by? Every act should be done with love.