by Jodi Lyn Cutler

The 2018–2019 academic year is shaping up to be a very exciting year of outreach changes at North Star. We have some new campaigns to share our message as well as some important changes to our fundraising events.

In terms of community outreach, North Star has kicked off a lunch-and-learn information session series entitled “School is Optional, Lunch is Not” for business and community leaders. Our first event was co-hosted by Tara Brewster, Vice President of Business Development at Greenfield Savings Bank, and Bob Lowry of Bueno y Sano. It was such a rousing success that we have already scheduled a second event, which will be held on November 30. We are planning a third lunch-and-learn event in Amherst for early next year. 

One specific positive outcome of our first lunch was an invitation to speak at the Northampton Kiwanis Club in November.  We enjoy sharing our approach with interested adults in an informational, non-fundraising moment.  If you know of someone with broad reach in our community, we’d love your help introducing them to North Star at one of these lunches. Please contact me at

Our Board’s Development Committee has arranged to have a new, more visible sign for North Star in front of our building. Please keep a lookout for this improvement when you are driving by, and let us know when you see it.

We continue to hold monthly Information Sessions at North Star for interested families and community members to see North Star in action. We appreciate your directing people to these sessions.

We have two major changes to announce regarding fundraising: 1) The Community Foundation has discontinued Valley Gives Day, and 2) The North Star Board of Directors has chosen to change our annual Celebration of Self-Directed Learning to a series of smaller, more personal events.  

In terms of direct giving, North Star now invites you to include us in your charitable end-of-the-year giving in the coming months instead of waiting for what would have been Valley Gives Day in the spring. We will launch this campaign in conjunction with the National Day of Giving on November 27 and continue it through December. Your gifts matter, and we hope this announcement will be the first of several invitations to you to support North Star in the coming weeks.

For those of you who were planning to attend the Brunch, we will be inviting you to a series of smaller fundraising events. The first one was “Sipping Our Way to Scholarships,” a wine tasting hosted by Board member Sue Surner in her home. We enjoyed sampling nine wines accompanied by lovely snacks, and raised more than $3,500! Stay tuned for other house parties and small concerts this year. We will plan several events where you can have some fun, hear about North Star, and make a contribution to our scholarship fund. We look forward to seeing each of you at least once!

Meanwhile, your careful reading of our wish list and generosity has led to many useful donations this fall, including: new vacuums, new dishes and silverware, a basketball hoop, a microwave, a food processor, and a rice cooker, among other items. Your response to our wish list is deeply gratifying and is providing a significant improvement to our physical space!

We have had six applicants for the 2018 Ozzy Klate Memorial Fund Awards. Formal recognition of the awardees will be held at the North Star Variety Show on Friday, December 7.  I invite you all to attend this special presentation of the Awards and a wonderful showcase of student talent.

And, in case you missed it, our summer hosting of Circus Smirkus was a tremendous success. Thanks to all for the hard work making this highly anticipated event for families throughout the Valley go off with out a hitch. We hosted four sold-out shows and enjoyed our most successful year of sponsorships and advertisers. In fact, our implementation of this event is being used as a model by Circus Smirkus with their other site hosts.

I welcome your suggestions and feedback, and I look forward to being in direct touch with many of you.