Westerville Education Challenge, a nonprofit charitable organization, is celebrating 10 years of supporting Westerville City School District students through programs such as Challenge Day.

Operated by community volunteers since 2009, the organization has contributed more than $100,000 to the school district for initiatives that support students' social and emotional well-being and character education.

A celebration, the Rock This Town '80s Party, will take place from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Medallion Club, 5000 Club Drive, as a fundraiser to help support the group and its causes.

"I am often asked, 'Why Challenge Day and Westerville Education Challenge?' and 'Why Rock This Town 80's Party?' " when it comes to fundraising, said Kristan Robertson, Westerville Education Challenge president.

"Challenge Day -- because it lifts up the soul and the empathy of the youth it seeks to engage and also the adults involved," she said. "Rock This Town '80s Party -- because it is a very fun and energetic evening of music, dancing and socializing that also raises money for the programs and grants that Westerville Education Challenge supports in our high schools and middle schools, such as Challenge Day at all three Westerville high schools, the PRIDE program at Heritage Middle School and other character-building programs in the middle schools."

More than 6,000 high schools students have participated in the annual Challenge Day workshops, and more than 3,000 middle school students have experienced the PRIDE program, a team-building initiative, and attended the Middle School Empowerment Summit, according to Robertson.

Tami Santa, student-assistance programs facilitator, said about 1,600 girls from all four middle schools have participated in the Middle School Empowerment Summit, where they're introduced to powerful messaging around self-esteem, choices, finding similarities among peers, lifting up peers in district buildings and taking ownership for school climate.

She said 400 responses from students who attended a recent summit reported positive feedback on motivational speaker Tei Street's messages and related small-group activities.

Santa said the girls appreciated getting to know different people, being able to talk about real issues with other girls and expressing themselves with those who made them feel supported.

Challenge Day

Since Westerville's first Challenge Day in December 2007, Challenge Days have been held among all three Westerville high schools, according to Stephanie Martin, Westerville Central High School guidance counselor and Challenge Day coordinator.

The 12th annual Challenge Day program was held Nov. 12-15, with 369 students and 88 adults participating.

Over the past 12 years, Martin said, a total of 5,769 students and 1,438 adult volunteers have been involved in Challenge Day for a total of 7,207 participants.

The overall cost to deliver Challenge Day, including program fees, travel costs for presenters and other miscellaneous expenses, has been about $222,000 for 56 Challenge Day programs over the past 12 years.

Martin said Challenge Day is supported financially by a mix of generous community members, including business sponsors; grants; fundraisers; and donations from individuals, organizations, the school district and families of student participants.

Program resources

Westerville Education Challenge is the primary supporter of Challenge Day, providing in-kind support for promotion and program implementation, Martin said.

Through fundraising initiatives, Westerville Education Challenge has donated $43,800 to help bring Challenge Day to Westerville since 2010, according to Martin.

Local grants in past years that also have defrayed the program costs include Westerville Sunrise Rotary, $11,250; Westerville Education Foundation, $2,000; and the Bette Marschall Memorial Education Fund, $500.

In 2015, Martin said, the Westerville Area Resource Ministry created a new partnership with Westerville South High School and has provided lunches for all the students participating in Challenge Day at that school the past four years.

"We have come a long way in 10 years of providing programming, but have so much more room to grow," Robertson said. "We continue to seek and to appreciate the support and sponsorship from the Westerville community, organizations and businesses in our endeavors."

Tickets for Saturday's fundraising event are $50 and will be available at the door.

For more information, visit westervilleeducationchallenge.org.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla