RSC is pleased to feature the Tracy Family Foundation (TFF), which is based out of Mount Sterling, Illinois. We thank Jean Buckley, TFF Board President, and Dan Teefey, TFF Executive Director, for taking the time to visit with us about their initiatives.
The Tracy Family Foundation was founded in 1997 by the Robert and Dorothy Tracy Family and is based out of Mount Sterling, Illinois. The foundation was started by the family's second generation with a vision to build a better world through more organized, engaged, and strategic philanthropy.
Jean Buckley, a Tracy family second generation member and the foundation’s Board President, explained that it was a family decision to create the foundation as a tribute to their mom and dad, Dorothy and Robert Tracy, who believed in the value of family and community, education, leadership, and fair economic development. “Our goal is to bring the town back to a vibrant community” said Ms. Buckley.
TFF focuses on "Education, Youth and Families, Leadership, and Brown County Economic Development." Its stated mission is to:
Advance innovative, collaborative, and sustainable change in communities and cultivate a philanthropic spirit in all generations of the Robert and Dorothy Tracy family (Tracy Family Foundation).
Philanthropic foundations can transform a town or a region through visioning, grant making, and collaborative leadership. TFF is provides this kind of charitable leadership in Mount Sterling and the surrounding west central Illinois region. Dan Teefey, the foundation’s Executive Director, explained that while the foundation’s economic development efforts are focused only on Brown County, their Education, Youth and Families, and Leadership efforts extend to cover the surrounding 10 county region, which includes Adams, Brown, Cass, Greene, Hancock, McDonough, Morgan, Pike, Scott, and Schuyler counties.
Responding to the Region's Needs
TFF educational and leadership initiatives respond directly to the perceived and defined needs in the region. One aspect of the Foundation's approach to regional issues has been to directly address the rural teacher shortage and student achievement gap. To this end TFF has supported rural teacher corps initiatives at Western Illinois University (Great River Teacher Corps) and Quincy University (Grow Your Own). These programs award scholarships to student participants, who then commit to teach in rural school districts upon graduation. In addition, teacher corps participants receive training on rural issues and place-based education, things that will allow them to provide leadership at the community level.
Another avenue in which TFF is providing educational support is to strengthen academic achievement from early childhood to post-secondary education. This robust commitment has resulted in grant support for early education, school leadership, Catholic schools, and Brown County schools, which includes a scholarship program for Brown County high school graduates. “It is the legacy of mom and dad.” Ms. Buckley said, “They believed in continuing study and leadership."
Both Buckley and Teefey are excited by the foundation’s support of a Brown County Schools program to improve academic achievement, “Every Student. Every Level”. This successful venture has resulted in higher ACT scores for Brown County High School students and has also increased the number of community members who rank schools as a high priority. In addition, TFF's partnership with the schools has built stronger bridges between the school and community. One example of this work is "Curriculum Nights," where community members make dinner for a teacher. This type of interaction allows people to learn more about the teacher's work and demonstrates to teachers that they are valued and appreciated.
The Foundation believes outstanding teachers and quality school leaders are important factors in improving the overall student learning experience. This belief led to a partnership with the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) and the state Regional Office of Education #1 to support school leader development. The resulting Executive Development Program (EDP) prepares educational leaders to build a school culture that is keenly focused on quality academics. To date, 90 educators from west central Illinois have graduated from the program.
Direct support to students is yet another facet of the Tracy Family Foundation's support for education.TFF awards scholarships to Brown County High School Graduates through Scholarship America. In 2019 the foundation will provide 15 scholarships for students to attend 4-year colleges enrolment and 15 career and tech scholarships. “We want Brown County High School graduates to be ready for college, ready for work” said Mr. Teefey.
Vision and Commitment
Community-based philanthropy presents real economic development possibilities for small towns and rural regions. Cooperative efforts between philanthropic entities and local school districts are vitally important to the success of small towns or rural region. Purposeful foundation leadership can provide vision and hope, and their charitable investments serve as a catalysts for meaningful action. The Tracy Family Foundation exemplifies this kind of work, and rural places would be stronger if more families would replicate their efforts.
We invite you to learn more about the impact of local philanthropy on rural communities.
Thanks again to Ms. Buckley and Mr. Teefey for talking to us about the Tracy Family Foundation and their efforts to promote and support rural education.
December 10, 2020
Thanks to you we are giving voice to rural teachers!