Northern Stars Celebration
The Anoka-Hennepin Educational Foundation’s (AHEF) annual Northern Stars Celebration on Saturday, February 10 was a great success, with donors and sponsors giving an unprecedented $88,000 for the Anoka-Hennepin students, schools, and foundation.
“Once again, our sponsors and donors went all in and we can’t thank them enough,” said Lynn Montgomery, event chair and board secretary for the AHEF. “We have such deep and generous support from our community, from our sponsors and from within the district. As a grandparent of students in the district and as a volunteer, it’s very affirming.”
This year’s celebration was held at the Bunker Hills Event Center. “It was so much fun! The energy in the room was so positive and upbeat. This is by no means a stuffy or dull night,” said Tess DeGeest, executive director of the AHEF. The Northern Stars is an annual celebration of quality education in the district. This year’s celebration included an online auction, dinner, fun in-person games, and a short program highlighting the impact donors have had by supporting student learning across the district.
The program this year highlighted a student story and grant funded at Crooked Lake Elementary School. After being inspired by a student, Mr. Tyler Reedy, school social worker, applied for a grant to fund a giant, yard chess set to give all students a chance to be outside and build friendships over recess. Once the chess set arrived, the students at Crooked Lake decided quickly to name it the Triton 5000 in honor of their friend and former chess club leader. This story is just one example of how donors are benefitting students all across the district.
Funds donated will fuel innovation for students and staff. “Our sponsors and donors are the real heroes here, they are the ones funding new and creative tools, technology, methods and curriculum for our students,” DeGeest emphasized.
Also shared for the first time publicly, DeGeest announced that AHEF has acquired the mission and assets of the Harlan R. Thurston Foundation. Established in 1965 by the long-time banker in Anoka, Harlan Thurston wanted to provide post-secondary opportunities for Anoka-Hennepin graduates through low-interest loans and scholarships. The Thurston Foundation is now known as the AHEF Thurston Fund, which is endowed. By endowing the fund, it will exist in perpetuity because the principal is never spent, just the interest earned is used for scholarships. “I and the AHEF board of directors are honored to have been entrusted with stewardship and legacy of the Harlan Foundation,” said DeGeest. This transfer reduces overhead costs, increases operational efficiencies, and provides greater security for the future of the funds.
Next year’s celebration is set for February 8, 2025, at the Bunker Hills Event Center in Coon Rapids. “Events like this are a great excuse to dress up, go out, and have fun while raising money for a great cause, our kids and their education,” said DeGeest.
This year’s sponsors included the Platinum sponsors Connexus Energy and the Ramsey Lions Club; Presenting sponsors Metro Sales Inc., and United Healthcare; Gold sponsor Wells Fargo Private Bank; Silver sponsors, ATS&R and First Student; and Bronze sponsors, Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota, Scheller Legal Solutions, LLC, Anoka-Hennepin Elementary and Secondary Principals Association, Egan, Jorgenson Construction, and MidWestOne Bank. The dessert sponsor was Superintendent Cory and Jennifer McIntyre. Table sponsors included Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Northeast Bank of Minnesota, Delta Dental, Hallberg Engineering, Julie Blaha, Wold Architects, Waste Management, High Point Networks, Horace Mann, and Border Bank. The Valet sponsors were Mike Kraft Architects and the Anoka Rotary Club. The North Metro Mayors Association was an in-kind sponsor.