Guest column: Legacy fund to help students in activities

Published 11:31 am Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Guest column by Dick Humphrey

Back in the late 1960s, a bunch of Albert Lea Tigers hustled on the football field for a Friday night football game. There were Usher’s Club members seating fans, the Distributive Education Club members were selling concessions under the bleachers, there were cheerleaders and the dance line on the sidelines and an upbeat marching band on the field at half time.

Those of us who were part of that high school experience understand how lucky we were. We didn’t pay a thing to play or participate. Today, every one of those activities would come with an activity fee for students — and that can leave kids out.

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That’s why the Albert Lea High School class of 1969 stepped up this year to try and ensure everyone who wants to can afford to participate in school-sanctioned activities.   In honor of our 50th class reunion, we rallied our classmates to create a legacy fund and raised nearly $79,000. All of that will be funneled into the Tiger Assistance Fund that kids can access. Those funds will be available for students to help cover the fees for school activities.

Finding a way to give back to our alma mater has been a hallmark of the class of 1969. Over the years, our classmates have generously donated to the Albert Lea Education Foundation. We’ve donated to recognize our favorite teachers, some alive and some who have passed. One alum’s significant donation allowed the music department to buy instruments for kids who can’t afford them. And in 2012, when there was a fundraising drive to coincide with renaming the football field for Jim Gustafson, our class had the highest percentage of former players participate and raised nearly $18,000.

We recognize the impact the Albert Lea schools and community had on our lives and want to pass it on. As our reunion approached, we knew we wanted to do something special.

As we considered what to do, some classmates noted that school districts in their current hometowns charged their daughters/sons/grandchildren for the activities many of us enjoyed for free. For Albert Lea students, those fees can be $45 to $468 per year. (Other districts are similar.) But Albert Lea Area Schools have the Tiger Foundation Assistance Fund through the Albert Lea Education Foundation, a source of money for students who need help with such fees. We thought we could give it a boost.

The idea of a Class of 1969 Legacy Fund was born. It would benefit the students in school-sanctioned activities and ensure that money was accessible for kids in need who wanted to participate. The campaign quickly gained momentum.

Our initial goal was $25,000, and a number of classmates stepped up with $5,000 grants to kickstart donations. We spread word through the class, and checks started rolling in. The class embraced the idea and many donors commented on how important activities had been during their school years.

By the time of our 50th class reunion in September, we had secured 13 donations of $5,000 each, plus many more donations from $50 to $1,000 from the class as a whole.

As of this writing, the Class of 1969 Legacy Fund sits within the Albert Lea Education Foundation with $78,918. It is endowed, which assures financial assistance for students for years to come.

We hope no Albert Lea student has to forego a school activity — from music to sports to theater and vocational programs — for lack of funds.

The legacy fund will accept donations from anyone who desires to join us in making school activities affordable to all students in District 241. Checks or stock gifts should go to the Albert Lea Education Foundation, Box 828, Albert Lea, MN 56007 with the mention of the 1969 Legacy Fund. The class extends a hearty thanks to Leean Dulitz at the Albert Lea Education Foundation for assisting with the setup of the Class of 1969 Legacy Fund.

Go Tigers!

Dick Humphrey is a member of the Albert Lea High School class of 1969.