Rotary invests heart and soul into Valhalla Elementary School

Monna Lux heard a statistic a year ago that startled her: By the third grade, most children have decided whether they’re going to finish high school.

It was at the Federal Way Communities in Schools breakfast last February, and Lux was listening to a speaker discuss the large dropout rate.

“In our society, it’s very hard to be successful without an education and the ability to learn,” Lux said.

She decided to do something about it. As a member of the Federal Way Noon Rotary Club, Lux had resources available to her to make a difference. She gathered support and the Rotary Club adopted Valhalla Elementary School. They committed to four years of service at Valhalla during which they will provide volunteers and financial support.

“It felt like as a professional and business organization, the Federal Way Rotary was in a position to make a long-term commitment to one elementary school and see if we could provide some intervention,” she said.

Some of the projects the Rotary has planned so far include helping staff move supplies during construction on a new school, helping teachers in the classroom, providing dictionaries for third-graders and providing literacy mentoring. The Rotary has already provided large quantities of school supplies for the entire school and backpacks for kindergartners.

Rotary members also plan to facilitate a “Walk a Marathon” program to encourage kids to get exercise by walking 26 miles, one mile at a time.

“The end result will be they will get a sweatshirt to wear as part of their uniform, so that they will have a nice sweatshirt to wear to school and to keep warm when it gets cold out,” Lux said.

Staff at Valhalla have been working to reach out to parents and the community for support. More than 40 percent of students at Valhalla come from non-English speaking families. In those families, parents aren’t traditionally involved in school activities such as the PTA.

Marie Verhaar, principal at Valhalla, said she is grateful for the additional support from the Rotary Club.

“It’s truly a gift and the staff is so appreciative,” Verhaar said. “It’s truly been, for the staff and myself, one of the most heartwarming opportunities we’ve had in a long time.”

Helping children is making an investment in the community, Verhaar said.

“These are Federal Way’s children,” she said. “They’re going to be the next business owners. They’re going to be the next CPAs, so when you invest in their future it’s really going to benefit you.”

Contact Margo Hoffman:

For more information about how to volunteer at a Federal Way school, call the school’s office or the district administration buildi

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