New Braham Area Education Foundation officially takes flight

The Braham Area Education Foundation announced its official launch this week, after nearly a year of planning and community engagement.

The Braham Area Education Foundation is a Partner Fund of the Initiative Foundation and is led by an advisory board of local volunteers who have made a commitment to strengthening educational opportunities in Braham.

The members of the founding advisory board include Chair Tim Nelson, Vice Chair Terry Turnquist, Secretary Stephanie White, Treasurer Kelby Jennisen, Carrie Davis, Tracy Fix, Peter Hesselroth, Tammi Johnson, Aitor Leniz, Marie Meyer, Sue Riesing and Heather Sward.

“I owe everything that I have to the fact that there were strong schools and a supportive community in this area when I grew up,” Nelson said. “Our Board is committed to paying that forward, by supporting the efforts within Braham’s schools to enable every child to reach their full potential.”

The foundation’s partnership with the Initiative Foundation combines local knowledge and leadership with professional expertise and guidance to identify educational needs, build relationships with donors, and manage the foundation’s investments in Braham’s future. The foundation’s initial focus will be on developing an endowment fund, which is a charitable investment account in which the principal contributions will never be spent, but the earnings provide a flexible, dependable funding stream to support local students. As that endowment grows, the foundation’s ability to strengthen educational opportunities will grow as well.

The foundation developed funding priorities after gathering input from more than 120 members and friends of the Braham community, and then analyzing that input in a workshop led by Kristi Ackley, a facilitator from the Initiative Foundation. Those priorities include working to provide educational grants and learning experiences that broaden horizons for local students, from Braham’s earliest learners to Bombers transitioning to life after high school; and strengthening ties between Braham’s schools and the community, by working to enhance opportunities for local families to take ownership in the success of Braham’s schools, and by including stakeholders throughout our area in the shared mission of educating our children.

The specific grants that the foundation will award will depend on the applicant pool and the available resources in any given year. However, similar educational foundations have distributed grants to fund student scholarships; provide additional technology to enhance classroom experiences; and support learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom.

“Our schools in Braham are big enough to offer a high-quality education, and small enough to ensure that every child reaches their full potential,” said Superintendent Ken Gagner. “We look forward to the assistance of the foundation in sustaining and enhancing the quality of the education in Braham’s schools for decades to come.”

The foundation will kick off its fundraising with a pledge from Aurelius Manufacturing in Braham to match the first $5,000 in contributions.

“As the manufacturing world changes, it becomes more and more important over time for us to have an educated workforce that is able to navigate changes in technology,” said Loren Nelson, President of Aurelius Manufacturing. “Contributing to our local schools is a chance to invest in the future of our children, and it’s also a chance to ensure that we’re building a community where businesses and employees can succeed together.”

Gagner and his wife Jill have also helped start the foundation’s fundraising with a personal pledge of $500.
You will be able to find members of the advisory board answering questions at the school open house on Aug. 30 from 5-7:30 p.m., where there will also be a free meal available; and at Braham’s first home football game on its new field on Aug. 31, where advisory board members will be serving hamburgers from 6-7 p.m. prior to the game.

To contribute to the foundation quickly and securely online, visit You can also contact members of the advisory board if you would like assistance with making a contribution to the foundation by mail or in your will.