Education & Arts

The Next 25 Social Enterprise Stars: Education & the Arts

March 16, 2015

RSF_SocentStarsLOGO-300dpi (2)As part of our campaign to add 25 social enterprise stars to our loan portfolio over the next year, we’re looking for new borrowers in all three of our focus areas: Food & Agriculture, Education & the Arts, and Ecological Stewardship. These are broad categories, but because it’s not always obvious whether an enterprise is a fit for us we’ll delve into what we look for in each area over the next three months. Up this month: Education & the Arts.

We support many different types of enterprises under this umbrella, including:

Marimi common mealOne of our current borrowers provides a great example in the last category: Camphill Communities California (CCC), a Santa Cruz supportive life-sharing community where volunteer caregivers and individuals with developmental disabilities live and work in a cooperative and rewarding environment. CCC offers everyone the opportunity to learn, grow, and live up to their highest aspirations. CCC is a model and inspiration for how to address the needs of the whole person: body, soul, and spirit. RSF has provided CCC with mortgage and construction loans to expand and improve their facilities.

If you know any enterprises in any of our focus areas that could expand their impact with greater access to capital, send them to Wanted: Social Enterprise Stars. General criteria for borrowers includes:

  • Incorporated in the US or Canada
  • Funding needs ranging from $200,000 to $5 million
  • Enterprise is profitable, or can demonstrate a clear path to profitability in 12 months
  • Annual revenue of $1 million or greater

Please pass it on to your network! The more #SocentStars posts there are on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, the more social enterprises we can reach and assist. Many thanks to all those who’ve been tweeting and posting so far.

Here are a few post ideas:

Are you an arts or edu enterprise looking for #funding? @RSFSocFinance has loans for #socents: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #SocentStars

Does your #socent need capital to grow? @RSFSocFinance provides loans up to $5M: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #SocentStars

@RSFSocFinance is #funding the next 25 #SocentStars. See if you qualify: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #socent

Foundation For the Challenged

March 10, 2015

This article was originally published in the Winter 2015 RSF Quarterly.

By Meredith Storton, Client Development Associate

Over seven million Americans have an intellectual or developmental disability. These individuals are some of the most marginalized and underserved members in our society. They face poverty, unemployment, and discrimination, all of which combined make finding affordable housing a particular challenge. Fortunately, there are housing options that provide independence, dignity, and a sense of community to the developmentally disabled: community-based living. Foundation for the Challenged [FFC] is a non-profit that is working hard to meet the high demands for community-based living by making homes available for the developmentally disabled to rent. Tucked away in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, FFC provides homes to 350 developmentally disabled individuals in 94 residences located across 11 states. With support from RSF’s financing, FFC has been able to weather the 2008 housing crash and continue on its mission to buy homes for the developmentally disabled, positioning themselves as a social enterprise helping those with the most need.

Residents of FFC housing work on an arts & crafts project. Courtesy FFC.

Residents of FFC housing work on an arts & crafts project. Courtesy FFC.

Inspiration

Fran Wesseling has been at the helm of this organization since 2002, when FFC started buying homes for the developmentally disabled to rent. Wesseling started her career in nursing, but after an interaction with a developmentally disabled person she decided she wanted to focus all of her energy towards helping that community. Soon thereafter, she started working at Alternative Residences, Inc. [ARI], the predecessor organization to FFC. ARI was a non-profit that focused on managing group homes and providing direct services to the developmentally disabled. These support services include taking residents to the grocery store, helping them dress, and preparing dinner for them. There are many service providers like ARI, however, and ARI’s board, led by Wesseling, believed they could do something else – something more impactful for the developmentally disabled. So, in 2002, ARI sold its service provider contracts to other providers and became Foundation for the Challenged. Their goal became to improve the quality of life for the developmentally disabled by encouraging community inclusion and providing a place for them to live affordably and comfortably. Buying houses and starting a charitable program, it turns out, enables FFC to do just that.

Innovation

Developmentally disabled Americans receive monthly financial support from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. They use a portion of their SSI funds to pay rent. FFC is the landlord in the homes they own. They use the rental income to pay down their mortgages and to support their slim operations (FFC has two full-time and two part-time employees). Because FFC is not providing the at-home services, the separation of service provider and landlord roles ensures that the residents are treated fairly. FFC is a compassionate landlord that understands the various needs their residents have and the challenges they face. They provide the residents with the opportunity to live with other developmentally disabled individuals in a place where they feel at home. This integration into the wider community is better for the residents and better for society as a whole. As Kathy Streblo, FFC’s Associate Director of Housing Operations, sees it, the benefits of community living are significant, “The developmentally disabled are able to enjoy all the things that you and I are able to enjoy about living in a community – choosing roommates, picking where you live, and what activities you do.”

The need for real estate for the developmentally disabled is enormous. For decades, many developmentally disabled people, regardless of their disability level, were living in state-run institutions segregated from society and stripped of their independence. In 1999, a landmark Supreme Court decision declared that the segregation of people with disabilities is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a result of the so-called Olmstead decision, community-based living became the desired solution to institutional settings. Now, however, there is a new problem – a shortage of homes available for the developmentally disabled to rent. Tens of thousands of developmentally disabled people linger on waitlists for years for homes like those FFC owns. In the meantime, they live with aging caregivers or they remain in institutions. FFC does not have control over the state-run waitlists, but they are attempting to fulfill the need one home at a time.

When FFC started purchasing homes, they were able to acquire them quickly using the affordable housing financing available through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Then in 2008, the housing market crashed. Affordable housing financing dried up and suddenly instead of making 10% down payments on a new home, FFC was required to put down 30%. They were forced to hunt for state and federal grant dollars to help supplement their purchases. Even then, the budget was tight and their ability to buy houses slowed significantly.

FFC went to several small lenders that specialized in housing for the developmentally disabled, but they weren’t able to provide a loan that was large enough to cover FFC’s needs. In 2010, Wesseling, still on the hunt for financing options, met RSF Senior Director of Lending Ted Levinson at a Social Enterprise Alliance meeting. Wesseling recalls, “there was synergy in that RSF valued what we were doing and the mission that we had when other banks didn’t care what we were doing and the social impact we were having.” RSF was able to provide FFC with a $3.9MM mortgage loan, which brought their interest rates down and enabled them to use the savings from the refinanced mortgages to do much needed repairs and improvements on several homes. Levinson is grateful RSF was able to support the critical need FFC is addressing. He explains, “RSF shares the view that every person, regardless of ability or disability, deserves to lead a full life. This includes their emotional, social, and spiritual needs. A permanent place to live – one that a person can truly consider a home – is a critical first step in achieving this full life.”

Impact

Though they provide much needed housing for 350 individuals, FFC felt the need to give back in a more direct way to the community they work with. In 2006, FFC launched the Community Living Fund that supports the developmentally disabled by providing basic living necessities such as wheelchair ramps and walking devices. Individuals have the opportunity to apply for up to $1,000, which goes a long way for someone living on SSI payments. One of Wesseling’s favorite stories is about a grant that was used to pave a bike trail in a rural area so that a boy with down-syndrome could safely ride his bike near his home. FFC has provided over $130,000 in grants to individuals since the fund started in 2006.

In mid-November, FFC held a fundraising event to expand and endow the newly named Wesseling Community Living Fund so that even when the organization faces financial hardships like the 2008 housing crash, they’re able to give back. So far they’ve raised 70% of their fundraising goal for the fund and the donations are continuing to come in. The event doubled as a retirement celebration for Wesseling. After serving the organization for 28 years, she is stepping down and in her stead Kathy Streblo will become the Executive Director. They have plans in place for a smooth transition. Over the next few years, FFC will focus on growth in the markets they’re already in – states like Ohio, Tennessee, Iowa, Florida and Washington – where they already understand the state regulations and have vetted the service providers. They hope that they’ll be able to keep serving those most in need for a long time to come. RSF hopes to keep supporting FFC’s work and other like-minded organizations that are providing dignity, stability, and independence to people with developmental disabilities.

Educating for a Democratic Society – Part II

March 3, 2015

This article was originally published in the Winter 2015 RSF Quarterly.

Click here for Part I

JC good portraitby Joan Caldarera, Ed.D.

Waldorf education, inspired by Rudolf Steiner, recognizes that democratic principles are an essential but incomplete imagination of the purpose of education. It is possible to formulate the characteristics of a larger conception of education under the rubric of three essential categorical features: critical thinking, civic engagement or social responsibility, and the cultural/institutional features of schooling.

In 1919, Steiner articulated a new social theory in which he outlined revolutionary principles for practices in three sectors of social life: cultural/spiritual, rights and agreements (political), and economic. The principles had their origins in the ideals of the French Revolution: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. Steiner put forward the following: In the realm of the spiritual/cultural the guiding principle is freedom; in rights and agreements, equality; in economics, brotherhood or interdependence.

This expansive view keeps clarity between political systems and governing principles with the presence of human individuality and its attendant capacity for self-knowledge and the in-born capacity for altruism. Steiner posited that out of educated self-awareness, each citizen could know how and when to exercise spiritual freedom, hieratic in nature; a sense of rights, egalitarian in nature; or economic action, based on an awareness of material needs and the circulation of goods and services.

Educating For a Democratic PEOPLE chart

In the center of the diagram is placed the individual in recognition that it is the single “I” who must implement the ideals of democracy, along with each other I. The I, then, radiating through its education reaches the three primary fields—rights ? equity, spiritual/cultural ? critical thinking, and economic ? social responsibility—each of which in turn has its complement opposite it: relationships, civic engagement, and morality respectively.

If one sees democracy as the atmosphere in which this threefold educational ecosystem lives, then one can also see that civic engagement, relationship, and morality—the three mediators—along with the three points, form the ground of ethical life without which democracy cannot thrive. Education becomes the means whereby the individual can fully inhabit the democratic/ethical world thus formulated.

In this way, it is possible to use Rudolf Steiner’s view of the threefold commonwealth as a framework for understanding and designing an educational system that cultivates the three key domains with their principles as a basis for a morally/spiritually informed democratic society. Such an education would encourage more conscious cultivation of economic life based on altruism, and a rights life which highlights how we create our agreements—two key aspects of life that often remain unaddressed in current educational practice.

Waldorf education is only one of what could be many possible forms of social education that can be developed based upon Steiner’s ideas around threefoldness. The effectiveness of any education derives from its leaders’ and teachers’ willingness to share a vision of the aims of education, a common and constantly-renewed image of students and their development, an inspiring curriculum that respects teachers’ professionalism and autonomy, and a common method of teaching democratic aims.

A socially just world requires that its citizens have the flexibility of thinking that respects the capacities and freedom of each individual, understands that true equality is essential in governing and in the creation of policies and laws, and sees that the economic world will be sustaining when self-interested behavior is transformed into a more altruistic practice. I recognize that this is no small undertaking given our current educational system—yet, unless we attempt such change, our democratic future is at risk.

Joan Caldarera is the director of Rudolf Steiner College—San Francisco, a teacher training center. She is also a humanities instructor at San Francisco Waldorf High School. She has taught at every level in Waldorf education from kindergarten through high school, as well as serving in the administration as both High School Chair and Head of Administration for San Francisco Waldorf School. Dr. Caldarera’s doctoral research has been published under the title, Through the Lives of the Teachers: How Waldorf Class Teachers Think about Morality, Waldorf Education, and the Arts in the 21st Century. She has also published articles on aspects of Waldorf education in numerous education journals.

Educating for a Democratic Society – Part I

February 26, 2015

This article was originally published in the Winter 2015 RSF Quarterly.

JC good portraitby Joan Caldarera, Ed.D.

What kind of education is needed for forming the minds, hearts, and hands of the next generation who will have to cope with and transform the ecological, social, and economic issues of today, issues that transcend political boundaries, cultural constructs, and economic realities?

I will start with some historical context for American education. Thomas Jefferson articulated the American ideal of education when he stated that to protect against tyranny it is necessary “to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large.” While the struggle since has been to expand in a truly democratic way the definition of “people at large” so as to do away with the anti-democratic legacy of classism, racism, and sexism, the purpose of education itself remains essential to a democratic state. The Constitution has no provision for education, but the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 made clear that the new government would be committed to supporting education: “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools as the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” During the first half of the 19th Century schools grew from being subordinate to family, church, and community to being the foremost means of education under the common-school movement.

As the country moved forward, so did the schools, and they came to be seen more and more as the shaper of culture.

The causes to which education, especially public education, could be put in the United States continued to grow. Waves of immigration aroused new thinking on the purposes of education: it should provide for assimilation; it should allow each group to flourish; it should lead to replication of society as we know it; it should give rise to new ways of looking at democracy. Industrialization made its presence felt as schooling became more mechanized and a “product” was called for—trained workers. One influential approach was the reform movement known as progressive education, which dominated into the 1950s and held at its core the effort to use education to improve the lives of individuals.

The paramount voice of progressivism was that of educational philosopher John Dewey. In Democracy and Education, Dewey lays out his conception of education as essential to life. Multifaceted in its purpose, education was for him an introduction to humanity and nature, guidance in social life and mores, an avenue for individual development, and a means of building capacities for one’s future.

The echoes of Dewey still resound in the work of reformist educators like Deborah Meier, founder of the alternative Central Park Elementary School in Harlem, based in large part on involving the students in decision-making in a democratic way. For Ms. Meier, one fundamental purpose of schools is to “inspire a generation of Americans to take on our collective task of preserving and nourishing the habits of heart and mind essential for a democracy, and, as we now see, the future of the planet itself.” She insists on a fundamental change in the way people relate to each other in schools, emphasizing that student “voices are heard and taken into account.” For Meier, then, educating for a democratic people means educating democratically.

Click here for Part II

Joan Caldarera is the director of Rudolf Steiner College—San Francisco, a teacher training center. She is also a humanities instructor at San Francisco Waldorf High School. She has taught at every level in Waldorf education from kindergarten through high school, as well as serving in the administration as both High School Chair and Head of Administration for San Francisco Waldorf School. Dr. Caldarera’s doctoral research has been published under the title, Through the Lives of the Teachers: How Waldorf Class Teachers Think about Morality, Waldorf Education, and the Arts in the 21st Century. She has also published articles on aspects of Waldorf education in numerous education journals.

RSF Gives $50,000 to L.A. Arts Non-Profits

February 24, 2015

RSF is pleased to announce that it has allocated $50,000 in grant funding to six arts service organizations in Los Angeles County. The funding shines a light on a pioneering model of grantmaking, called Shared Gifting, as well as indicates the need for continued support of the groups that work backstage to keep art communities vibrant.

Since 2010, RSF has been developing the Shared Gifting model as an alternative to traditional philanthropy, in which foundations typically make grant decisions behind closed doors.

“We created this tool to transform the power dynamics that we saw in philanthropy, so it builds trust and cooperation between the organizations,” says Kelley Buhles, director of the program. “It brings collaboration, transparency, and community wisdom into the grantmaking process.”

In late January, the latest round of recipients—18th Street Arts Center, Arts for LA, California Lawyers for the Arts, Center for Cultural Innovation, LA Stage Alliance, and the Latino Arts Network—came together in Santa Monica for a daylong meeting, called a Shared Gifting Circle, to collectively decide how the grant funding should be allocated among them. The participants reviewed each other’s proposals and made the final recommendations for allocations.

IMG_6684“It was like no other funding process that I’ve been through in the 20 years that I’ve worked in fundraising and development,” says Rebecca Nevarez, executive director of the Latino Arts Network. “The intimate format, with hands-on creative activities and personal stories, allowed us to really get to know each other and encouraged collaborative thinking. It gave us all opportunities to explain the needs of each organization and constituency, and allowed us to act on our gut feelings about the needs of L.A.’s arts community as a whole.”

The L.A. Shared Gifting Circle also seeded collaborations to gain more visibility for the important role of these organizations in the arts community.

“Because we are behind the scenes in the art world, many funders underestimate the significance of the work we do until there is a crisis,” explains Alma Robinson, executive director of California Lawyers for the Arts. “We’ll use our grant to restore the funding for our arts arbitration and mediation services so we can help more artists and arts organizations resolve conflict.”

The work of LA Stage Alliance and 18th Street Arts Center, both borrowers in RSF’s Social Enterprise Loan program, inspired RSF to offer grant funding to arts service organizations because they play a crucial role in supporting artists and arts non-profits, and they often find it challenging to attract funding.

“In the meeting, we heard how important this is—arts services organizations often compete with the non-profits they support,” said Buhles. “It was extremely gratifying to help with funding needs and to expand our support of the arts in L.A.”

Shared Gifting L.A. participants

Shared Gifting L.A. participants

Contact

Kelley Buhles, Director, Philanthropic Services

kelley.buhles@rsfsocialfinance.org

415.561.6152

RSF Makes a Loan to Imagine Supported Living Services

February 10, 2015

Logo from FBRSF is pleased to announce a loan to Imagine Supported Living Services, a non-profit organization providing services to adults within Santa Cruz County living with developmental disabilities. RSF financing allowed Imagine to acquire two buildings which will house their administrative headquarters and a community center.

Imagine was founded in 2002 with a mission to empower people with developmental disabilities through service and advocacy. Imagine works cooperatively with individuals and other service agencies to increase access and reduce the barriers which prevent people with disabilities from full inclusion in our society.

IMG_1856

Imagine Client

Imagine offers services which acknowledge an individual’s strengths and abilities, and supports that individual in planning a life that they find personally rewarding. At Imagine, each person designs and directs their own services to accomplish the goals they set for themselves.

“Imagine focuses on the abilities of their clients, not their disabilities,” says Ted Levinson, Senior Director of Lending at RSF. “Similar to our long-history of work with Camphill Communities, it’s this approach that makes Imagine a true leader in the supported living services industry.”

Imagine finds and secures housing while providing on-going and long-term direct staff support for personal care and tasks, money management, facilitation of social and recreational activities, and medical management. Each month, Imagine provides 11,000 service hours to clients throughout Santa Cruz County.

In addition to direct services, Imagine is also engaged in community-building, advocacy, and collaboration. Their Resource Library offers free check out of communication devices, training materials, therapeutic devices, and other specialized resources to anyone living in Santa Cruz County. Imagine organizes an annual community event which celebrates the diversity and abilities of its community members and is attended by over 300 people. Imagine has mentored several other agencies and has led a collaborative initiative which brings together all the providers in the region in order to increase the quality of services and have the opportunity to share resources and best practices.

ernie dave n brianna 2

Imagine Clients

RSF financing enabled Imagine to acquire real estate which will house its administrative offices and a community center. The new location provides more space and is more accessible to clients, some of whom visit the offices by public transportation.

“As an agency that seeks to serve individuals with developmental disabilities throughout their lives, we have community integration as a core value and sustainability as an imperative,” says Doug Pascover, Executive Director of Imagine. “The loan we received from RSF helps us plan our finances toward the same far horizon to which we plan our services. It helps us to be the kind of neighbors in our community that we ask our neighbors to be for the people we serve. Working with a lender as mission-driven as we are makes our new financing relationship a real partnership according to our values.”

About Imagine Supported Living Services

Founded in 2002, Imagine is a non-profit organization providing supported living services to adults with developmental disabilities in Santa Cruz County. Imagine’s mission is to empower people with developmental disabilities through service and advocacy. Imagine works cooperatively with individuals and other service agencies to increase access and reduce the barriers which exclude people with disabilities from full inclusion in our society. http://imaginesls.org/

Letter from Don: The Value of Learning

January 27, 2015

This letter was originally published in the Winter 2015 RSF Quarterly.

Don Shaffer - DefaultDear Friends,

If we are serious about transforming the way the world works with money, then we have an obligation to look at the role education plays in it. I know this because I get to witness my children every day engaging with people, playing, and slowly becoming who they will be.

I invite you to think through your own experiences of education. What remains of value? What was painful? What was most important? How did you discover what actually motivates you? And what of your education has informed how you stand in relationships, in your work, and in community? This inquiry leads to the core of the educational process—transferring wisdom across generations. And that wisdom is about how we know and learn rather than what we know.

As this issue of our Quarterly demonstrates, the relationship between individual and community, and the capacity to navigate our own development, and that between ourselves and others, is the basis for a healthy future—and probably the hardest of all “subjects” to teach. This is so mostly because in order to teach it, we first have to live it. Our hope is that money simply supports and follows these paths of relationship, and frees up initiative to educate, innovate, and cultivate community.

Trusting that you had a joyful and renewing holiday season, and we join with you in invoking the best in the New Year for everyone.

Yours,

Don Shaffer,
President & CEO

RSF Winter Quarterly: Can Learning Transform Society?

January 7, 2015

The transformative quality of learning is top of mind in the latest issue of the RSF Quarterly. Joan Caldarera, Director of the Rudolf Steiner College, San Francisco, offers a reconsideration of the purpose and framework for the future of education. Learn how RSF borrower Foundation For the Challenged empowers the developmentally disabled to lead a full life by providing them with dignity, stability, and independence. RSF Senior Director of Lending, Ted Levinson, gives an update on our campaign to find the next 25 social enterprise stars, and highlights current RSF borrowers doing groundbreaking work in the field of arts and education.

To download an electronic copy of the Quarterly, click here.

Cover from RSF_Education_FINAL

Seed Fund Grantee Highlight: Green Meadow Waldorf School

December 16, 2014

gmws

Green Meadow Waldorf School (GMWS) received a $1,000 Seed Fund grant to support Open Saturdays, a free tutoring program brought by GMWS faculty, staff, parents, and students to children in struggling local public schools during the 2014-15 school year. GMWS is located in Chestnut Ridge, New York in the East Ramapo School District where more than 48 percent of students are eligible for free school lunches, and an additional 14 percent are eligible for reduced price meals. The district has faced significant budget deficits in recent years, exceeding $7 million in the 2012-13 school year, resulting in extensive cuts to programming. Last spring, more than 80 district teachers and staff members were laid off, including arts faculty, librarians, and security personnel, and full-day kindergarten has been eliminated district-wide, as has music and art, athletics, and AP and ESL coursework.

gmws2Student Testimonial:

“To be honest, I was very skeptical about [Open Saturdays] because it was free of charge. I was reluctant to wake up early every Saturday, but I…brought my math folder, tests, and homework and expected the worst. At first I worked with a student named Sabine, and she really got me comfortable with the environment here. After a few more sessions, I started to work with Mr. Madsen. He was a great help and he definitely helped me increase my scores in math.” –Julian

Open Saturdays is a way for Green Meadow to reach out to students in this severely under-resourced school district. The program was designed and is coordinated by Green Meadow’s Diversity Committee, a standing group that includes representatives from diverse backgrounds from the faculty, staff, and parent body. The Committee contacted guidance counselors and administrators in local schools during the fall of 2013 to gauge needs and interest in a tutoring program, and based on this input from partners in the district, GMWS moved forward with a pilot program immediately. Open Saturdays, launched in January 2014, provides free tutoring in mathematics, science, and English to local public school students enrolled at Chestnut Ridge Middle School and other middle and high schools in the district. The tutors are GMWS middle and high school teachers, staff, parents, and high school students, who volunteer their time.

gmws3Student Testimonials:

“In the time that I have been coming here, I have had an amazing experience. I was tutored by several different people. My grades went up and my homework was completed more efficiently.” –Elijah

“With these Saturday sessions, I have gotten to understand my work better and meet incredible people. At the beginning, my grades were not where they should be, but with your [GMWS tutor] help my grades have improved dramatically.” –Alexis

 “When I first [started], I had a lot of trouble with the subject Math. I was at the point where I was failing bad. Then I met a teacher named Mr. Madsen. Once I worked with him, he made math a lot easier for me.” –Taron

The principal outcomes for the program are learning improvements by students, evidenced through increased competence with the material, as observed by tutors. GMWS also hopes that the program will promote a culture of service in their community and support an overarching goal to build bridges between their school and the larger community while providing tangible, meaningful services to their neighbors. You can read more about the program in an interview with Vicki Larson, Green Meadow Waldorf School’s Director of Communication and Marketing in their March/April 2014 newsletter.

gmws4gmws5

RSF Makes a Loan to the Pine Forest School

December 15, 2014

PFS Logo.RSF is pleased to announce a new loan to the Pine Forest School (PFS). RSF financing will help fund the acquisition and renovation of a new campus property that will increase the community’s access to education inspired by Waldorf principles.

Celebrating their 20th anniversary this school year, Pine Forest School is a publicly funded, Pre-8 grade school in Flagstaff, Arizona using a curriculum and methodology inspired by Waldorf Education. PFS was founded in 1995 as a K-4 public school, and was originally funded by the Arizona State Department of Education. Through collaborative efforts by interested Flagstaff families and enthusiastic, trained Waldorf educators and other teachers, education inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s ideas has become a reality in Northern Arizona. Over the following five years the school grew to be a complete K-8 program.

Michael Heffernan, PFS Executive Director, standing in front of the school's new property. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Daily Sun.

Michael Heffernan, PFS Executive Director, stands in front of the school’s new property. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Daily Sun.

The school currently operates on a 1.5 acre campus located in a light industrial park area of north Flagstaff. For the past several years the school has been focused on developing resources and community support for a move to a site offering an environment more suited to a school inspired by Waldorf principles, as well as the capacity to embrace a larger community. With the help of RSF financing the school was able to acquire a 3.5 acre property in Sunnyside, one of Flagstaff’s oldest neighborhoods. The school has plans for over $1.4 million in renovations, and hopes to open the new campus for the 2015-2016 school year.

“Pine Forest School and RSF Social Finance have known each other for many years,” says RSF Senior Lending Associate, Reed Mayfield. “I first visited the school in the spring of 2011 when they were seeking to build out new facilities – it was not the right time for a move. But now as the school and community have grown, we are proud to co-create a path to the new space. Talk about long-term relationships!”

The curriculum inspired by Waldorf Education that Pine Forest School follows uses a child development model that nurtures and embraces learning for the head, heart, and hands of each student. With nearly 250 students currently enrolled, PFS offers main lesson blocks intertwined with Southwestern culture, tradition, and history. Special classes and extra-curricular activities include German, Spanish, eurythmy, woodwork, handwork, art, archery, chess, basketball, and volleyball. The school is led by a passionate group of teachers and administrators, and seeks to facilitate strong family and community involvement through events, volunteer opportunities, and communication.

Pine Forest School is currently the only public charter school in Flagstaff inspired by Waldorf principles. PFS believes all children should have access to education inspired by Waldorf principles, regardless of their financial resources, and hope that the move to a new location will provide greater access to underserved children. The new site is more centrally located in Flagstaff, and is surrounded by several different neighborhoods and communities of people from varying ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“I am very excited that PFS has been blessed with the opportunity to expand our enrollment and bring this form of education to more children and families, and move to a location which is in the heart of Flagstaff, surrounded by neighborhoods, other schools, public libraries, city parks and national forest,” says PFS Executive Director Michael Heffernan. “We will be able to build our program with the larger facilities and more acreage, and the possibilities for community collaboration are many.  RSF is the perfect organization to partner with as their mission for social finance is aligned with our mission for excellence in education.”

Video courtesy of Pine Forest School:

About Pine Forest School

Founded in 1995, Pine Forest School (PFS) is the only public charter school in Flagstaff, Arizona using a curriculum and methodology inspired by Waldorf Education. PFS provides an education of the whole child, with a curriculum that is a truly comprehensive balance of academic, practical, and artistic activities. The school is dedicated to helping individuals achieve their full intellectual, emotional, and physical potential, in a sustainable and beautiful environment that reinforces integrity, understanding, respect, and trust.  www.pineforestschool.org

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