Beginnings and Growth


Our history begins around 2002 when I attended a meeting at which the State of Ct. Education Commissioner Ted Sergi was discussing the value of school-based foundations. He threw out a challenge to the Superintendents and RESC Executive Directors to consider exploring the benefits of such a foundation. Meanwhile, I had attended the Hartford Learning Corridor Gala and was impressed with the range of attendees, parents, corporate sponsors, and many politicians. It was a great evening, and the foundation raised an impressive amount of money for its magnet school students. I was ready to return to ACES and propose exploring this idea.

Carolyn McNally, former director at ACES, and I began to meet with those member school districts that had a foundation, and with local friends to help us move this from an idea to a working project. Bitsie Clark, a community activist and ACES friend, graciously agreed to meet with us over many months. She identified potential board members, recommended a law firm to begin formally researching the legal ramifications of forming a foundation, and met with our administrators to gather input about how a foundation might benefit their classroom programs and services.

We applied for 501c3 non-profit status. We wanted autonomy from the ACES Board; we believed two separate entities would allow greater flexibility. However, we also knew that we needed to create a structure that would provide us with a solid connection with ACES while maintaining that autonomy. The key to this structure was appointing the Executive Director of ACES as President of the ACES Education Foundation. This would provide the input we wanted while maintaining the independence we needed.

Our vision and mission were simple; we wanted to raise funds for our programs while also raising awareness of ACES. We set about planning our first gala at ECA with the enthusiastic support of ACES ECA Director/Principal Bob Parker and his very resourceful staff. Our first Gala was terrific, a lot of work and even more fun. I think it’s fair to say that we never realized how fulfilling this endeavor would become and how generous our friends, and colleagues and families would prove to be. To date, we have raised in excess of $700,000, providing us the greatest opportunity to offer creative and educational experiences for our students at ACES. Thanks also go to our member school districts for their continuing support.

I’d like to acknowledge the great effort of others who early on were instrumental in establishing the foundation and for their continuing support. They include: Al Hopkins, Assistant Executive Director, whom we lost several years ago, Sharyn Esdaile and Judy Terrill, former ACES principals and current board members, who helped establish the tone and quality we envisioned for the gala. And finally, to the ACES Administrators and staff, many of whom have been our volunteers, and who have never waivered in their support each and every year, it’s not enough to simply say thanks!

We owe a special thanks to the group who served as our first ACES Education Foundation Board members. They are James Barber, Rabbi Herbert Brockman, Susan A. Clark, J. Edward Diamond, Roy K. Jetter, Dr. Robert La Camera, Frances Padilla, and Peter C. Young.

As the Executive Director of ACES at this time, and the president of the foundation, I had the thrill of working with this thoughtful and generous group of people. Some of these names you will recognize as continuing members on our board. To those succeeding Board members who have been and continue to be our inspiration we offer our thanks.

Over these past 15 years we have been honored to receive support from many generous and talented community and business members who have continued the tradition of supporting all our students and young adults at our Work Force through the efforts of the ACES Education Foundation. Leafing through the Program will highlight all these generous people and businesses.

Thanks to all of you tonight for your support, we hope you enjoy your evening. And, please take a minute to view our Special Mural at the entrance, prepared by art teacher Michele Raffaele and her students at Whitney High School North. It’s an impressive display of the names and photos of our dear friends who were there in the beginning, and many who are still here tonight!

Finally, I want to thank my ACES successor Craig Edmondson for all that he did to continue the good work of the foundation. And, I want to offer a special thanks to our current executive director, Tom Danehy, for the way he has so enthusiastically embraced the role of the foundation. His support has been vital to accomplishing all that needs to be done.

On behalf of all,

Cheryl S. Saloom