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The Public Education Foundation Hosts Nevada’s First Virtual Gala

Non-profits up and down the state are struggling because normal sources of funding aren’t there.

Corporations, businesses and philanthropists who usually contribute to nonprofits and charities have been severely impacted by the global pandemic.

Plus, banquets and fundraising parties are difficult to do virtually. Despite the difficulties, this year, the Public Education Foundation is trying it.

For 23 years, hundreds of people would go to the foundation’s annual gala to celebrate the valley’s best teachers and support public education.

This year, the celebration is all online.

Kirsten Searer is the foundation's president. She told KNPR's State of Nevada that the foundation got a special waiver from the Federal Communications Commission to broadcast the gala on VegasPBS.

"We usually have a huge event with people packed into a ballroom and it's a wonderful occasion that's not something we can do this year," she said. 

Instead, the gala will be a 90-minute show on VegasPBS honoring 10 people and organizations the foundation is calling "community heroes" and "education heroes," that stepped up to help children and families during the pandemic.

Some of the honorees include the city of Henderson for putting together emergency child care services for essential workers just a few days after schools closed in March, and a teacher who created a way to live stream graduation ceremonies for graduating seniors and their families.

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"The nice thing is we know that hundreds and hundreds of people across our community did wonderful things for kids and families," she said, "So, we picked out 10, and it's a small sample of how people stepped up to help their community when it was needed."

The event will include special performances and messages from Strip performers.

"Some of our board members have even said to me, 'I would rather be kicking it back at home in my PJs, than going to a gala,'" she said, "It is going to be a totally different experience but I think it's going to be really a celebration." 

Searer said the Public Education Foundation, which works closely with businesses and the Clark County School District to create a variety of public-private programs, including teacher training, college scholarships and supply services for teachers and kids in need, is hurting for funding.

She said they had to make some painful cuts and are now working on a shoestring budget at a time when many of the organization's programs are even more important.

But Searer said there are conversations going on within the business and education communities about how the changes that have been made because of the pandemic can actually improve education in Southern Nevada.

"A lot of people feel like as terrible as this crisis is, and it is terrible, there is an opportunity in education to rethink how we deliver education to students," she said. "We're talking to businesses and saying, 'how can we emerge from this crisis with stronger schools than ever.'"

Searer said the foundation wants to improve the delivery of education through the distance learning model that had to be adopted because of the pandemic.

 

Guests

Kirsten Searer, President, Public Education Foundation

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