Bastrop County Character Education program announces scholarship winners for 2019-20

posted May 4, 2020, 10:08 AM by Fran Hunter   [ updated May 4, 2020, 10:11 AM ]

Bastrop County Character Education program is pleased to announce four BCCE Character Merit Scholarships winners for the 2019-20 school year. Each senior receiving a $500 scholarship to help further their education are:
  • Jannie Lou B. Dejillo of Smithville ISD
  • Brandon Girod of Elgin ISD
  • Jaden Strong of Elgin ISD
  • Marlizeth Castenada Hernandez of Cedar Creek ISD
The Character Education program is a countywide effort in "Building Good Citizens for Texas," and is managed by Smithville Education Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit. 

Thank you to those businesses and organizations around the county who sponsor Character Trait posters of the month, which helps fund this program.

SEF's Enrichment Program nets Artist of Year award

posted Mar 5, 2020, 8:55 PM by Fran Hunter   [ updated Mar 6, 2020, 12:56 PM ]

Smithville Education Foundation's Arts Enrichment Days Program received the 6th annual Artist of the Year award at the annual banquet of the Smithville Area Chamber of Commerce "for their Tremendous Artistic Contribution to our Community." The award was chosen by a panel of judges of the Richard D. Latham Cultural District.

On the plaque, quoted is:

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. 
~Pablo Picasso

We are very proud and pleased to have touched the lives of so many children in our community, on our goal to help inspire our children to be the best they can be.

SPEECH READ DURING AWARDS CEREMONY:  The Smithville Education Foundation was founded in 2011 after the state drastically cut funding for schools.  SEF is a 501c3 non-profit and rely strictly on donations to fund the programs.  The programs include Enrichment Days at Brown Primary and the Elementary schools, Innovative Teaching Grants for our teachers and the education foundation manages the Bastrop County Character Education Program. Smithville Education Foundation recently awarded $4,600 in grants to the teachers in our district and they are once again in the process of producing the banners which line Smithville's streets. 

Smithville Education Foundation's flagship program is Enrichment Day.  These began shortly after their inception to fill the cuts that were made to the art programs across the state.  They coordinate our efforts with the school district to put these days together, and the kids look forward to them every time. At Brown Primary, grades Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd get to participate in four different activities during each Enrichment Day.  While the kids are in this program, the teachers use this time to meet as a team and analyze data and plan for the coming weeks.  

The four activities include art, movement, culture, and science.  The art and movement activities are organized by SEF and the district leads the science and culture activities. The art lessons are led by an artist, currently Brandy Royster and the movement activities alternate between gymnastics and yoga.  The district puts together the other two activities which include lessons about different countries and a hands-on science lesson.  

This program is also being funded for the Elementary school but the management and organization is being done solely by the district.  Between Brown and the Elementary this program touches almost 800 students each of the four times we are doing it this year. 

This year Smithville Education Foundation received a grant from Born Again Emporium to help fund the Enrichment Day efforts.  SEF President Nancy Towry expressed her appreciation of the support from BAE and the entire community.  It takes many organizations in our community to make programs successful.

Smithville Education Foundation's mission is to support SISD by working together with the community to serve as a catalyst for generating and distributing resources to inspire students to excel. 

Citizen of the Year:  Janice Bruno
Organization of the Year:  Smithville Empty Bowl Project
Business of the Year:  A&S Electric
Growing Business Award:  CALBRI Logistics 
Growing Business Award:  Bella’s Cottage
Keep Smithville Beautiful Award:  Dorothy Richards
Chamber Spotlight for Excellence in Workforce Development:  Smithville ISD Continuing Technical Education Program
Chamber Spotlight Award: Kragh’s Jewelry
Chamber Spotlight Award:  Betty Kahanek
Artist of the Year:  Smithville Education Foundation Arts Enrichment Days

Open Houses & Presentations

posted Sep 29, 2018, 10:08 AM by Fran Hunter   [ updated Sep 29, 2018, 10:30 AM ]

Board members, Nancy Towry, Fran Hunter and Melanie Summarell recently attended the Brown Primary Open House to present information about Smithville Education Foundation's programming and to give parents a chance to find dream volunteer opportunity.  If you are a parent or community member and would like to volunteer, please email

This is the third time this school year that Nancy has brought out the SEF information and spent time informing teachers, parents and staff about the nonprofit organization and how we help the school district, teachers, staff and students.

Our programs are as follows:

1. Enrichment Programming
2. Youth Banner Project
3. Innovative Teaching Grants
4. Elementary Book Trailers
5. Bastrop County Character Education trait of the month program
6. Top 10% Honors Banquet

If your organization would like information about the Smithville Education Foundation or have us present it for your group, please contact us.  We are proud of our programming and would love to share it with you.

Top 10 Percent Graduate Dinner - May 2018

posted Jul 26, 2018, 12:12 PM by Fran Hunter   [ updated Jul 26, 2018, 12:14 PM ]

Smithville Education Foundation co-hosted the Top 10 Percent Graduate Dinner in May for the graduating students, their family and their favorite teachers.  

SEF President Nancy Towry spoke briefly, congratulating the students, their parents, and the teacher chosen by the student who made the most impact on them. She also discussed the mission of the organization, and handed out certificates to the students, along with the Smithville Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director April Daniels. 

Supt. Cheryl Burns was the main speaker. SISD's David Edwards read the accomplishments of the students and acknowledged their teachers. Banquet catering by John Chabot.


Shop Amazon Smile and help the Foundation!

posted Jan 9, 2018, 12:18 PM by Fran Hunter

Smithville Education Foundation is an official Amazon Smile nonprofit, and you can help donate through your everyday online purchases.

It's simple.  After you register the Smithville Education Foundation as your nonprofit, simply shop the Amazon Smile site instead of Amazon.  A portion of the proceeds will be donated to SEF.

SEF to manage Bastrop County Character Education program

posted Jan 3, 2018, 5:34 PM by Fran Hunter

Smithville Education Foundation has taken over management of the Bastrop County Character Education program.  The program didn't fit well in the mission of the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce and Elgin Chamber of Commerce but fits right in with ours - helping our teachers inspire greatness in our students.

BCCE includes the popular Character Trait of the Month posters, which are distributed throughout the schools and the communities.  The poster program will allow BCCE to give a scholarship to a student at each of our public high schools, starting in May 2018. 

We've got lots of great plans for the future.  We are seeking input from area school staff and high school  to increase the impact to younger students.  We've updated the traits and their definitions, and more.  Stay tuned!

For more about the program, visit

Education Foundation steps up to facilitate sales for SHS trades program

posted Dec 8, 2017, 8:47 AM by Fran Hunter

THE SMITHVILLE TIMES/Nov. 21, 2017   Fran Hunter

With a classroom filled with student-built products, but too busy teaching to be able to market and field calls
from people wanting to buy the goods, high school construction trades teacher Ryan Moerbe was in a predicament. His inventory was high, and his working space and material’s budget was low.

However, John Summarell, owner of A&S Electric and a guest teacher in Moerbe’s classes, saw a solution in his wife Melanie’s volunteer work. Summarell contacted Smithville Education Foundation’s (SEF) president Nancy Towry for help. After a few conversations with the board, the foundation agreed to take on the task of both marketing and answering calls to facilitate sales of the products.

Within 24 hours of starting the Smithville High School Woodworking and Metal Crafts Facebook page, SEF sold four deer blinds.

 “We had over $5,000 in sales in just five days,” Moerbe said. “And we received an order for five more deer blinds. We’re about to get a whole bundle of lumber delivered. That was just yesterday.”

Towry calls it a win-win-win.

“I think we’ve taken a load away from the teachers in selling product,” she said. “We’ve given the kids a chance
to gain more experience and learn more by replenishing their materials budget. It’s a win for the foundation in that we get a little bit of money to pay for our programming.”

Smithville Education Foundation will receive 10 percent of the sales to fund their programming and partnerships projects: innovative teaching grants, enrichment days, the art banner project, Top 10 Honors Banquet and the Smithville Elementary movie trailer project.

Moerbe said that adult and child-size picnic tables, benches and Adirondack chairs are very popular. They have also recently built full-size sheds, cornhole games, A-frame swings, bookcases, fish cleaning table with sink, and mineral feeders. Moerbe said the students could build just about anything someone wanted and customize it.
To gain experience with the tools of the trade, freshmen make stacked crosses and bird houses. Out of 19, Moerbe said that 75 percent had never used a jig saw before.

Students also cut out the music note and megaphone silhouettes for band members and cheerleaders to put in their yards, and have built things for various other school departments as needed.

“Last year was when we really started selling products,” Moerbe said of the school course now in its third year. “Our first big sale was to the First United Methodist Church — 12 benches and six chairs to match for their prayer garden.”

Moerbe said that this experience is extremely beneficial to the students in their skills training.
“They’re really paying attention to detail,” Moerbe said. “If we sell it, it has to be right.”

The students are also learning about cash flow and picking up on business sense, he said, and some students
are thinking of becoming entrepreneurs with their new skills.

Also in line to benefit from the partnership is Lance Hanson, a vocational agriculture and industrial arts teacher, who teaches students how to build with metal. In his class, students use a computer-aided design software to create designs which are then cut in metal. Students can custom create pieces, but Hanson said there’s a two-week lead time because students must first computerize the design.

The students also weld sizable items like barbecue pit trailers.

“I love the partnership” with SEF, Hanson said. “This moves the marketing to a group that can do a better job than us. It puts us back in the business of producing products. I can focus on the kids again.”

Towry said she anticipates the business will keep growing, especially when it includes Hanson’s metal work.
Currently, all orders must be picked up during school hours. To order from either department, call 512-710-5135 to reach Towry.

Though she receives the “almost daily calls” as a volunteer, Towry feels that she also benefits from the partnership.

“I get satisfaction that the kids products are being moved out into the community and that people are becoming aware that this is available,” Towry said. “A lot of people I’ve talked to have been very positive and would buy from the school because it helps the kids learn even more skills through the process.”

Capital Campaign nearing end, donate for tax deductions before Dec. 31

posted Nov 30, 2017, 6:46 PM by Fran Hunter   [ updated Nov 30, 2017, 6:47 PM ]

Smithville Education Foundation is in the middle of its annual Capital Campaign to raise funds for programs which meet our simple goal... to help teachers inspire greatness in their students.  We need your help.

The Smithville Education Foundation (SEF) is a group of dedicated volunteers working to raise money and support the Smithville Independent School District (SISD). SEF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation organized to augment and complement school district programs and activities.

The SEF Board is honored and humbled to be able to partner with SISD to bring resources to our kids. Each and every time SEF volunteers arrive at the schools, students, teachers, and administrators greet us with miles and excitement. They know they will be getting resources and experiences that they could not have without the support and assistance of the Smithville community. These smiles belong to you, as a contributor to our schools.

Since we began the first programs in 2011, SEF has funded over $25,000 in innovative teaching grants to SISD teachers and has provided nearly $15,000 to support the fine arts through the Enrichment Day program. During the 2016-17 School year, donations to SEF brought ear-to-ear smiles because donations were able to fund two rounds of grants (instead of just one) that provided teachers with the resources they needed to complete nine different projects — SEF was able to fund all of the requests we received.

Since 2016, SEF has also partnered with the Smithville Area Chamber of Commerce to recognize the Top 10%
of our students who graduate from Smithville High School, many of them intending to go on to college.  Every school day, SEF programs enrich the experiences children have in our school district. In order to fund these programs, SEF must have the financial support of our community.

Please contribute to our 2017-18 Capital Campaign and help us inspire greatness in our students!  With your financial support, you are making a difference by ensuring that SISD students receive the opportunity to do and be their best. Your donation, regardless of the amount, benefits our students and helps them become their best selves.  

Please return your completed form, attached below, along with your donation OR donate through PayPal on our Contact Us page.

YOUR SUPPORT MAKES A DIFFERENCE in the lives of our students and teachers every day!  Any amount helps us reach this goal and raise a greater next generation. Please do what you can.

Yoga added to Enrichment Days at Brown Primary

posted Nov 30, 2017, 6:37 PM by Fran Hunter   [ updated Jan 3, 2018, 5:21 PM ]

Yoga lessons during Brown Primary Enrichment Days.
Thanks to Vinyasa Jewel Yoga, Beginner Yoga has been added to the Enrichment Days program at Brown Primary with the first lessons held Nov. 9. The children really enjoyed the activity and were very attentive to the teacher. 

"The children were a blessing, it was our pleasure," said a representative from Yinyasa.

The board of the Smithville Education Foundation, which pays for the lessons, made the decision during the summer to embrace a new activity during the Enrichment Days program.

Yoga lessons will rotate with Beginning Theater and Movement by john daniels, jr. throughout the year. 

Thank you to Linda Rooks!

posted Oct 8, 2017, 12:10 PM by Fran Hunter   [ updated Jan 3, 2018, 5:22 PM ]

We give a hearty thank you to Linda Rooks for sponsoring the Bastrop County Character 
Education poster for Smithville and featuring Smithville Education Foundation this October.  With our Awareness and Capital Campaign going on this month, the recognition was especially sweet.  Thank you for recognizing the importance of our programs.

Only three of the four of our board members were available for the photo. Shown, from left, are Jill Strube, Nancy Towry and Fran Hunter; not shown, Melanie Summarell.

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