New Initiative for Harvard-Kent School Looks to Raise $1 Million Endowment

It was over a glass of wine in Italy that two Charlestown residents devised an aggressive plan to augment the fundraising at the Harvard-Kent School with an endowment that will raise $1 million over three years.

A few years ago, Charlestown neighbors Richard Burtt and Stuart Murphy met one another in Italy and began talking about the Harvard-Kent and its wonderful students and Principal Jason Gallagher. Murphy is on the Advisory Board for the already successful 11-year-old Leadership Scholarship there, but wanted to do more.

While the Scholarship gives six $1,000 scholarships to six students each year, Murphy and Burtt felt more could be done.

“We all know that $1,000 isn’t going to pay for a college education,” said Murphy. “However, it gives a signal to these scholars that they have the potential to succeed. They become college-bound.”

Now, that conversation some time in the past is presenting and exciting future as the two men and a group of others have started a campaign to raise a $1 million endowment fund to add to the existing Leadership Scholarship.

And Burtt said he hopes to have $250,000 in the first year.

“I’d like to say we can do it faster,” said Burtt this week by phone. “I’ve been reaching out to individuals and businesses and foundations in Boston and so far we’re getting good responses…I believe the businesses, individuals, attorneys and others in Charlestown will embrace this. We want to see the business community step up because this is a really worthwhile thing and these are kids that otherwise wouldn’t get the help.”

Burtt said he and Murphy, and their other members, will be asking for large amounts.

“Our program is in addition to what is there,” he said. “They normally ask for $50 to $500 for that. We will see donations higher than that for this.”

One of the newest revelations in public school financing – and especially in Boston schools – is finding partners to help shore up funding gaps or to raise money to afford the extras and scholarships. While some schools in Boston have huge endowments, many like the Harvard-Kent do not have such advantages.

That is something Burtt said they hope to change, at least here.

He said the trend here and everywhere only makes sense for the business community.

“Any business should do this,” he said. “We know right now the unemployment rate is down to 4 percent, which is full employment. The economy now is running up GDP of 3 percent and above and we don’t have the schools to support and continue that growth right now. We have to educate our students right now for the right jobs. It makes sense to focus in on public education. Most of our students are educated in public schools.”

The new effort will kick off on April 4 at the Commandant’s House in the Navy Yard. Stay tuned for more details, and Burtt said stay tuned for more success stories in the effort.
“I think everyone will see this is going to be very successful,” he said. “Hopefully on April 4, we can announce where we stand.”

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