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Renton again gathers to support schools at Launching Lifetime Learning breakfast

Community members, business owners and associates, PTA staff, school board members and others filled the Renton Pavilion Event Center on Thursday morning to show their support and raise funds for Renton schools.

This was the second annual breakfast put on by the Friends of Renton Schools or FoRS to support Renton school programs that otherwise might not receive funding.

The first breakfast last year raised about $200,000; FoRS will announce the amount raised in this year's event early next week.

"We are all extremely concerned about the state of school funding," said Evening Magazine's Meeghan Black, emcee of the Launching Lifetime Learning breakfast.

Black recognized sponsors and introduced keynote speaker Sally Jewell, president and CEO of REI.

Jewell grew up in the Renton School District, attending Bryn Mawr Elementary, Dimmitt Middle School and graduating from Renton High School in 1973.

She remarked on the differences at RHS since she went there, noting for example, that she climbed Mount St. Helens at age 15 with the school's climbing club. One doesn't exist today.

And that was Jewell's point in a nutshell: there needs to be a breadth of experiences for students to be involved in, and they don't all have to be achievement driven.

She asked the audience to consider the value of unstructured playtime, letting kids learn to work together with other kids and play creatively.

Jewell said today children aren't breaking their arms falling out of trees, but injuring themselves with repetitive movements from using computers. They're learning about nature through the Discovery Channel.

She recalled a teacher who introduced her to science and more recently author, Richard Louv, who champions the need of children to become less wired and more in-tune with nature.

Jewell said there is a growing No Child Left Inside movement, designed to teach young people about the environment.

She also said it is important to blend the outside world with technology.

Mary Alice Heuschel, Renton School District superintendent, thanked Jewell for her support, cited the district's demographics and achievements including a 93 precent graduation rate. School staff, a parent and student spoke on behalf of the success of the district as well.

Bob Bridge, president of Bob Bridge Toyota/Scion and FoRS committee member, thanked new and returning fund-raisers for the district.

Dale Walker, president of Walker's Renton Subaru, was one such new contributor to FoRS.

"Nothing gives you opportunities in life like education," Walker said. "And so, anytime we're struggling with developing the programs and maintaining the programs, we're jeopardizing our young people's ability to grow and be successful in life. And there's nothing we can contribute to that's more important than giving them a good foundation."

JoEllen Tapper, principal of Renton Park Elementary School, felt encouraged by what she saw in the room.

"It's wonderful to see this many people supporting us, who don't necessarily come into the buildings all the time, but knowing that our whole community, and this many people of our community, is behind us supporting the students, the PTA, the staff, the principals," she said. "It's just a wonderful feeling because you know that the Renton community is all working together for our child's education and their future."

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