Riverhead Charter School launches college scholarship fund for first graduating class
Riverhead Charter School’s Fundraising Gala is back this year to support an important cause — creating a college scholarship fund for the school’s first senior class, which is set to graduate in 2024.
The student-centered event will be held April 20 at The Vineyards at Aquebogue, beginning at 6 p.m. and will feature performances from the school’s 11th graders, a silent auction and more.
The school’s superintendent, Raymond Ankrum, said students are excited at the prospect of raising funds toward continuing their education.
“I think one of the most important things that we do for our students is we get them to dream big and they’re definitely doing that,” Mr. Ankrum said.
The school’s first senior class is currently comprised of 13 students, four of whom have been attending the charter school since kindergarten, board of trustees president Aimee LoMonaco said.
“Many of them are first-generation college students, so it was really important to us … that the gala benefit directly the senior class,” Ms. LoMonaco said. “Starting a scholarship fund is not only for them, as it could grow year over year for students so that this can be an annual fundraising event.”
According to Mr. Ankrum, 12 of the 13 students have already taken the SATs and all are planning to attend four-year colleges and universities. Along with the students’ hard work, he credited their guidance counselor, Terrell Dozier, and principal, Patrick McKinney, for inspiring them to dream big.
The event is being organized by the school’s fundraising committee, made up of board members, teachers and parents from the community. The fundraising committee would like to raise at least $20,000. Mr. Ankrum said he is in awe of the committee’s dedication to the students.
“Our staff is so dedicated and when we ask them to do a little bit additional [work] they have no problem with doing it,” he said. “The people are on this committee because they want to be … and they’re so active in terms of what they want for our students. It’s an amazing thing to see, it’s nothing like I’ve ever seen as a leader.”
Mr. Ankrum said they are still working out the details as to how these funds will be distributed.
“I think right now the goal is just to raise a lot of money and then we can talk about the ins and outs, the intricate details of how we distribute it a little bit later,” he said. “I’m thinking, in theory, depending on how much we raise, it could be so much as equally distributed through all of our students.”
The celebrations at the gala will be twofold, Ms. LoMonaco said.
“This year, now that we’re post-COVID, the fundraising committee wanted to really commit to bringing that gala back because we are graduating our first senior class next year and also because it was our 20-year anniversary,” she said. “The Riverhead Charter School started in 2001 and we weren’t able to really properly celebrate that because it was too close to pandemic times to do so.”
Local businesses and community members have already been supporting the cause, Ms. LoMonaco said.
“We’ve had businesses purchase tickets and donate them to us so that students and their families can attend free of charge,” she said.
Organizers are still looking for local businesses who want to sponsor the event or donate goods that can be added to the silent auction, Ms. LoMonaco said.
Last spring, the New York State Board of Regents renewed the school’s charter for a full, five-year term, allowing the school to continue enrolling students through grades 11 and 12. The renewal included approval for an increase in maximum enrollment from 850 students to 1,244. At its founding in 2001, the school offered only grades K-4 but has grown over time. Enrollment will increase gradually each school year from 2022-2023 through 2026-2027, when administrators expect to reach the 1,244 limit.
To accommodate for the influx of students, last fall the charter school debuted its new high school facility at the historic Old Northville School House on Sound Avenue. Before moving into that building, students in ninth and 10th grades shared space with elementary school students at the school’s main building in Calverton.
For more information on the gala, visit the event website or the school’s website at riverheadcharterschool.org.