Ferndale Businessperson Funds Reading Program, Calls for Matching Support

BoysGirls_trait_01essentialTOPtempFerndale Businessperson Rust Belt Ad late FridaysFunds Reading Program, Calls for Matching Support

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Sept. 11, 2016)

Ferndale, MI –  For a minute it was awkward.  Nervous teenagers who were happy to be out of class but quiet and shy around unknown grown-ups and the press.  They were there in main hall of Ferndale High School to be part of accepting a $100,000 check that was funding the reading program where they will be spending third hour for this year.  The program is funded with that $100,00 check from successful Garden Fresh founders Jack and Annette Aronson, and covers half the cost of the program for a year.

Ferndale Schools brought out the big check and the students posed and said thank you.  Will Jacks Adthey humbly remember this generous gift?  Could be.  But what happened once the cameras stopped will likely be more memorable for them.

Jack Aronson gathered the kids around, and started asking them about school, about what they want to do.  Among the youth there was a future music producer, a future teacher, a video game designer and someone who wants to repair computers.  Dorian Deriso, a sophomore, said he’s not sure what he wants to do, but he knows that education and good reading skills are important.  “There are counselors who can help, but I don’t have to know yet,” he said.

Ferndale High School is where Aronson himself spent his youth, having graduated in 1971.  He owned a tiny restaurant and perfected the art of delicious salsa.  Eventually his salsa – made with fresh ingredients and love each day for his customers – became a hit.  He had no idea that his joy in feeding friends and neighbors something healthy and delicious would end up Judy_Palmer30yearsbeing a national success.  Last year, after a long negotiation process that would protect the integrity of his product, Aronson sold Garden Fresh Salsa to Campbell’s for $231 million. Now he is running an incubator to help others with small batch products to go into more commercial production.

He talked to the kids about this encouraged them to keep learning, especially the parts that are hard.  “Everybody has things they are good at and things they need to work on.  If you want to run a business or succeed at whatever you’re doing, you need to learn new things and work on your skills,” Aronson said.

The program is an internationally-recognized reading intervention program called READ 180, which was developed at Vanderbilt University.  The District hired Stephanie Scobbie who is garden16_scott_robin_gallowayoverseeing about 50 kids, with room to add another 50 as they are identified.

“The class has four components to it that we go through each day. There is the whole class, then small group, then time on the computer, then personal reading time.  The computer time is a program that helps identify strengths and weakness, so the students can get help that is specific to their needs,” she said.

Scobbie likes the program because “it’s constantly moving, intentionally working all parts of the brain,” and because “it helps to create a family-like atmosphere in the classes, where students support each other.”

The program is possible because of the business community support.  In addition to the $100,000, Art Van Furniture has stepped up to equip the room with Steelcase furniture, and Aronson is asking the public and the business community to step up and match the donation.Ferndale Schools AD_02

“I’m going out personally to try and raise money for this program.  We can make such a difference in the lives of these kids.  This is how we can come together and show these kids that the community is behind them,” he said.

School Board Trustee Amy Butters was also there to accept the check.  “This is fantastic.  Mr. Aronson is setting a great example, not just donating but encouraging others. Supplementing what we can do for the kids has to be a team effort.  We are lucky to have Mr. Aronson, and Superintendent Blake Prewitt and his staff for identifying needs and working to make the best use of a donation,” Butters said.  “This is going to make a difference in these kids’ lives.”

Any donation amount is appreciated.  Businesses and individuals can also be active as level_one_ad01volunteers and mentors. “Any time someone steps up to help kids it makes a difference.  People can volunteer, or be a mentor. We have partnerships with businesses to help students who have an interest in a particular field.  There are lots of ways to get involved.”

Aronson has promised to follow up with the kids too, to check on their progress and bring them food later in the year.

Those that want to get involved can contact Bill Good at (248) 586-8672.  For more on Ferndale Schools visit www.ferndaleschools.org.  The Ferndale School District includes part of Oak Park, Part of Ferndale, Part of Royal Oak Township and all of Pleasant Ridge.  They also accept students through school of choice.

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