April 2019 – During the 2018-2019 academic year, the average Edina Public Schools athlete might want to enroll in cross country during the fall, basketball over the winter, and lacrosse in the spring. In this scenario, his or her family is looking at a $720 cumulative price tag – and that’s before try-out fees, tournament and travel expenses, and sometimes exorbitant equipment costs.
Scholastic activities, too, come at a price. Robotics team runs $95, debate team starts at $165, and so on. Even taking an Advanced Placement (AP) test at EHS typically costs a student $70 out of pocket. Fees such as these add up, and fast.
Edina is not an anomaly. A recent study by the University of Michigan found that, over the course of 2018-2019, 37 percent of parents expect to spend $1,000 per high schooler on academic and extracurricular expenses.
This significant and mounting price tag represents a nonstarter for many families, notes Hometown Hero Maggie McCracken. As Executive Director of Edina Give and Go – a school-aligned nonprofit created with this very problem in mind – she is in a good position to know.
“In short, Edina Give and Go is an effort to close the opportunity gap that this financial barrier represents,” McCracken explained. “We believe that students who come from a socioeconomically disadvantaged background deserve the same experiences that their higher-income peers enjoy.”
Last year, Edina Give and Go redistributed $125,000 in mini grants to area students. This is an impressive sum on the face of it – but doubly so given the organization’s age. High school parents and volunteers Idith Almog and Meg Rodriguez first started the enterprise a mere five years ago.
McCracken has been at the helm since December 2017. She comes to the post with a strong marketing background. This includes more than a decade at Target Corporation, where she developed broad-based experience in strategic planning, brand building and storytelling initiatives.
Over the past year, she has tapped this expertise to articulate Edina Give and Go’s value proposition and simultaneously grow both the nonprofit’s donor base and recipient pool.
As things stand today, Edina Give and Go devotes approximately 45 percent of its grant dollars to academic needs, 32 percent to sports-related fees, and the remaining 23 percent toward music and arts endeavors. However, these ratios are by no means set in stone. “Our criteria are purposefully broad … We really rely on students to tell us what they want from the fund,” McCracken explained.
Moreover, as a mission-aligned school partner, McCracken and her staff maintain a strong rapport with Edina Public Schools. “We also regularly hear from teachers, cultural liaisons, social workers and others who work with students … New partnership opportunities often come from these sources, as well.”
While costs tend to be greatest at the high school level, Edina Give and Go works with all nine Edina Public Schools. Students from families with a household income under $50,200 (equivalent to 200 percent the federal poverty rate) are eligible for consideration. Awards are capped at $500 per student per academic year.
Last year, nine percent of the Edina High Schools student body took advantage of Edina Give and Go. “That’s about 750 people, the equivalent of an entire graduating class at Edina High School,” McCracken noted. It also represents 60 percent year-over-year growth in student requests, according to the organization’s 2017-2018 impact report.
While statistics like these are compelling, McCracken believes that the true impact of Edina Give and Go cannot be measured immediately.
“Participation in extracurriculars correlates to better class attendance, higher student GPAs and test scores, and a more positive career outlook,” she explained. “This shows over time.”
“It also fosters a connected community; and a connected community is a strong community.”
In recognition of achievements to date, Edina Magazine singled out Edina Give and Go as “Best Community Organizer” of 2018. Moreover, Mayor Jim Hovland honored McCracken and Edina Give and Go with the annual Mayor's Service Organization Commendation in spring 2019.