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Education
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Advocate fundraiser returns; organizers hope for a legacy
Patty Dexter / Photo courtesy Anika Pai  

The Eden Prairie Student Council planned the 2018 “AdvoKate: A Benefit Supporting Cancer Research” event in memory of 13-year-old Kate Fronek, who died from leukemia in July 2017.

It’s only three years old, but the Advocate for a Cure fundraiser is growing up fast.

In 2017, Advocate was a small concert in the East Commons of Eden Prairie High School, raising money to help an Eden Prairie family and their 13-year-old daughter Kate Fronek’s battle with cancer.

Later that year, she died, and to honor her memory, her older sister Mackenzie Fronek and the EPHS Student Council created the second event — called AdvoKate — to raise money for cancer research organizations. Nearly 2,000 people attended the concert, held at Staring Lake Park, and the event raised over $12,000 for cancer research, said Advocate faculty adviser Taylor Smith-Bothun.

Mackenzie has since graduated, and earlier this year it wasn’t clear if the fundraiser would happen again, Advocate organizer Zella Sahar, a senior, said. However, a few of the 2018 organizers saw an opportunity to create a legacy of community philanthropy and in January began planning for the 2019 event.

The event has been renamed Advocate for a Cure to broaden its message and to honor the wishes of the Fronek family, student organizers said. They asked that the focus change from their family to a more general cancer-fighting message, but wanted the event to continue advocating for cancer research.

“They really wanted us to keep this going,” said organizer Carter Anderson, a senior.

The event will still send its donations to the organizations selected by the Fronek family: Gilda’s Place, Angel Foundation, Pinky Swear, Brighter Days, Hope Kids and Children’s Hospital, a news release says.

“The spirit of Kate is very much a part of this event,” Smith-Bothun added.

The enthusiasm for Advocate at EPHS was apparent as Anderson, Sahar and Sophia Yusuf, another senior, began planning the event with the Student Council and National Honor Society. They sent out applications for students to be involved in January 2019 and received nearly 80 replies, Anderson said.

Courtesy of Advocate 2019  

Students wore orange to raise awareness of ahead of the 2018 AdvoKate fundraiser. This year, nearly 80 students applied to help organize the 2019 event.

“We had to cut it in half, almost,” Anderson said.

The trio formed a leadership team that oversees four committees with around eight members each: marketing and design, outreach, tech and operations, and concert. They met weekly for months to organize outreach to local businesses, find student musicians to perform, set up a text-to-donate number and locate equipment for the day of the event. While Smith-Bothun helps with logistical issues — getting liability insurance, communicating with the city about signage and advertising — the students have done the vast majority of the work, he said.

“What’s cool about it for me as a teacher is to see dedicated, philanthropic work by students,” he said, noting that most of the organizers had already been accepted into college and were truly focused on helping others.

For the organizers, the 2019 event is a chance to bring the community together and create a lasting legacy for the event’s philanthropic spirit.

“For those people who have lost someone to cancer, I feel like it’s a nice way to commemorate,” Yusuf said.

“It’s a lively event, it’s not meant to be sad,” Sahar added.

Advocate for a Cure will take place from 4-8 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, at Eden Prairie High School, 17185 Valley View Road. It was originally scheduled for May 18 and rescheduled due to rain. The event will include live music, food trucks, a raffle, games, cancer information and llamas, according to the event page. All proceeds will benefit cancer research organizations.

Community members can donate by texting “advocate19” to 612-268-6901 and find the event online at @advocate4acure on Twitter and Instagram and @epstuco on Facebook.


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Education
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Eden Prairie voters approve Designing Pathways

Eden Prairie voters approved the $39.9 million Designing Pathways project that will fund construction, security upgrades and classroom changes to all eight of the district’s schools.

After three years of planning, voters passed the measure 69.5 percent (3155 votes) to 30.5 percent (1382 votes) on May 14, according to Eden Prairie Schools Communications Director Brett Johnson.

“I just want to thank the community for their support,” Superintendent Josh Swanson told Eden Prairie News. “It’s a great night for our kids.”

A total of 4,537 people voted in the election, which Johnson estimated was on the low end of the 15-30 percent of eligible voters the district predicted would vote in the referendum. The district worked hard to get the word out about the referendum, he said, but turnout for a May vote is generally low. The district used multiple communication platforms to encourage residents to vote, from paper fliers and emails to webinars and text reminders.

Moving forward

The district will now be allowed to issue $39.9 million in bonds for construction and materials to implement Designing Pathways. The tax impact will be around $6.50 a month on a $397,400 home, the referendum’s website says.

Construction will take several years to complete, with new classrooms ready to roll for the start of the 2021 school year, district officials have said.

Designing Pathways will move sixth-graders, currently housed at the district’s elementary schools, to into Central Middle School and move preschoolers into the elementary schools. There will be construction for additional classroom, cafeteria, gym and vehicle space to accommodate the changes, along with a new performing arts center at Central Middle School. The plan came with a push for greater academic choices, through growing levels of what’s called the Schoolwide Enrichment Model at the elementary grades. It evolves into “21st century electives” by middle school.

All eight schools will receive security upgrades, as well as new furniture and lighting for redesigned classrooms. School officials have told Eden Prairie News that construction could be completed by the start of the 2021-2022 school year, at which point sixth graders would transition to the middle school. Safety and security upgrades will begin immediately, Swanson said.

“We’re going to start on this tomorrow,” he said.

At the polls

On the morning of Tuesday, May 14, a steady flow of people made their way through Immanuel Lutheran Church at 16515 Luther Way, one of four polling locations open that day. Many of the voters had a connection to Eden Prairie schools.

Steven Nelson raised two children who graduated from Eden Prairie schools and said his vote was to ensure quality education for future generations.

“I definitely believe in the school system,” Nelson told Eden Prairie News as he left the polls. “I want to make sure that the kids coming up have the same opportunities.”

Katie Smith’s son is in fourth grade at Prairie View Elementary. His was one of the first classes to experience smaller class sizes due to the passage of a 2014 referendum, an election that Smith also voted in, she said.

In 2018, the district pointed to an uptick in third grade reading scores as evidence that the referendum did its job. Designing Pathways’ changes would increase the district’s focus on individual education styles and small-group learning, district officials have said.

“That’s why I think it’ll be a good thing to move the sixth grade to middle,” Smith explained.

Stephanie Proper is a parent of two students at Prairie View and Central Middle School. While she wasn’t sure if the community at large was aware of the referendum, the district made sure its parents did by sending fliers, reminder emails and texts about the vote, she said.

“I think those people who have kids in school, there’s no way you don’t know about it,” Proper said.

Nelson might not have been aware of the vote if he hadn’t received an email from the district about it, he said.

“My wife and I have talked to a couple of people who didn’t know there was going to be a vote,” he added.