By Christine Sampson
Where the wide-ranging needs of Sag Harbor school sports, the arts, technology, and other student groups’ interests intersect, that’s where you’ll find a modest group of community members raising money and volunteering their time to offer extra support outside of what the school district’s budget already provides.
The Sag Harbor Booster Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded seven years ago with the mission of channeling school spirit and community support as a way to elevate student success.
“We know that all kids have dreams and we all know the power of those dreams. We were looking for a way to inspire the kids and to build on their classroom experiences,” Robert Evjen, the president of the foundation, said in an email, adding, “We know that kids in our district have a passion for sports, academia, theatre, arts and even robotics. Our board came up with a strategy that in order to set these kids on a goal to achieve their fullest potential, we would have to provide funds to help the kids competitively achieve success. A common thread would be school spirit and use that spirit to inspire them to achieve their dreams.”
One of the booster foundation’s signature programs is Spirit Night, planned for Friday at Pierson Middle-High School. The rundown of activities includes a boys’ youth basketball showdown at 3:30 p.m., followed by the singing of the National Anthem and school song by the Pierson Middle School choir. At 4:30 p.m., the varsity girls’ basketball team will take on Southold High School in the high school gym, with the girls’ youth basketball team set to play a scrimmage during halftime of the varsity game.
At 6:10 p.m., the high school robotics team will show off its robot, to be followed by a basketball game pitting Pierson faculty against Sag Harbor emergency first responders. The high school chorus will sing the National Anthem and school song ahead of the boys’ varsity basketball game against Southold, which starts at 7:30 p.m. The Pierson cheerleaders will perform and the Sag Harbor Booster Foundation will present its scholarship plaque during halftime.
Emilie Bennett and Christa Schleicher, foundation board members who are the co-chairs of Spirit Night, said the event was launched to “boost school spirit, give the kids something to do in the wintertime, and showcase the kids and their talents.”
“Something that’s unique about Sag Harbor and Pierson, is that we can, as a foundation, include the entire student body, kindergarten to 12th grade, in the things we do,” Ms. Schleicher said. “Most booster clubs are athletically based. But we really target the whole student body, not just sports, and not just high school.”
The foundation is also known for its annual Quiz Show, its main fundraiser, which will take place this spring, along with its Disney raffle. It awards two $1,000 scholarships, one to a female senior and one to a male senior, each year at graduation. It provides small grants to teachers, club advisors, and coaches for projects, equipment, and opportunities that fall outside the scope of the school budget, such as rugby shirts for the field hockey team the last time it won the state championship and funding for the drama department to take a clinic with Broadway performers and watch a show in New York City. They run the concession stand at sports games and sell clothing, including the popular “Whaler Nation” shirts that are not specific to Pierson but rather represent the larger school community in Sag Harbor.
Ms. Bennett and Ms. Schleicher say they are happy to get involved because they love to give back.
“I love school spirit,” said Ms. Bennett, herself a Pierson alumna. “I get into it. I’m proud of my alma mater and I want to make sure the kids are too. When kids are here, they feel like it’s a small town, but they’re not gone long before they realize how good it was.”