Claridge Court Brings Science, Technology to Elementary Students

Category: Community Life

Claridge Court played Santa in 2015 to local elementary students – in a big and ongoing way.

At a December meeting of the Shawnee Mission School District Board of Education, Claridge Court representatives presented the district with a check for $42,500 to bring Project Lead the Way – the nation’s leading provider of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs – to five elementary schools in Prairie Village.

“We couldn’t be prouder to be able to offer assistance in a way that will continue to fund educational outreach for years to come,” Rob Salierno, executive director of Claridge Court, said. “Rather than offer money to support a one-time need or project, we wanted to send the message that we want to add value on an ongoing basis.”

The district, home to 33 elementary schools in all, already has implemented Project Lead the Way with older students, but hasn’t yet introduced it district-wide at an elementary level.  Dr. Christy Ziegler, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment for the Shawnee Mission district, said the project has special resonance with and impact on younger students, so the help from Claridge Court is invaluable.

“Bringing the five schools on board will help us achieve implementation across the district – a definite goal since we made the program a part of our curriculum,” Ziegler said. “We are grateful to Claridge Court for realizing just why this type of partnership is so important, as we work to educate the people who will one day take care of our community.”

Susan Gilmore, finance director for Claridge Court, said the idea to help fund the program came from two sources. First, Lifespace Communities, the Des Moines-based parent company of Claridge Court, charged its 12 campuses in seven states this year with making a greater effort to be good neighbors and reach out in meaningful ways to the communities in which they’re located.

Second, Claridge Court resident Monroe Taliaferro, a former mayor of Prairie Village, had long suggested that the retirement community reach out to the surrounding school district to provide help with unmet needs.

“As a not-for-profit owner and operator of senior living communities, Lifespace espouses a mission to give back, and we felt the need to support that,” Gilmore said. “When Mr. Taliaferro came to us with this idea, we couldn’t think of a better way to demonstrate our commitment to the community and all its citizens – specifically its youngest ones.”

To implement the partnership and complete the donation from the Claridge Court Living Life Fund, Gilmore called upon Linda Roser, director of the district’s foundation, who also had been talking with Taliaferro about ideas.

Roser pointed out that donations such as the money from Claridge Court can indirectly benefit retirement communities in years to come by helping to interest students in the health sciences.

“There will always be a need for a workforce with a medical or health-based background, and programs such as Project Lead the Way introduce concepts that often leave students wanting to explore certain fields more thoroughly,” Roser said. “We like to think future doctors, nurses and certified nursing assistants will feel their first spark of interest and passion because of this kind of program.”

Under the terms of the partnership, after the initial donation, Claridge Court will continue to offer at least $5,000 to $8,000 a year to assist with the program. The money is derived from the community’s operations budget, which includes money earmarked for social accountability, Gilmore said.