Friends of Norfolk Public Schools: Friends in Education and Philanthropy

Kathy Nolen-Martin volunteered in just about every school event when her daughter Molly Martin attended Norfolk Public Schools.

From fundraisers to athletics to PTA and teacher appreciation activities, Nolen-Martin showed up to help every time she could.

She first got involved when Molly attended Ghent School from kindergarten through eighth grade. In 2018, Molly graduated from Maury High and is now a student at Parsons School of Design in New York. However, Nolen-Martin hasn’t stopped lending a hand to Norfolk schools in need.

In the fall of 2019, she and a group of community leaders started the Friends of Norfolk Public Schools endowment fund at the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. It is a field-of-interest fund to support Norfolk Public Schools teacher projects.

“It’s a small but dedicated group of people who love Norfolk Public Schools,” she said. Supporters include educators, elected officials, business people, and community leaders.

The fund provides grants to Norfolk Public Schools teachers to enhance the classroom learning experience through creative and innovative teaching strategies. The grants include a mentoring component. By receiving a grant, teacher recipients agree to share their success tips with other colleagues.

Nolen-Martin, a retired major gifts officer at The College of William and Mary, said she believes in public education and wants to see every child succeed.

“My heart is in the public schools,” she said. “When I retired, I decided to put my time and talent where my passion is.”

Kathy Nolen-Martin
Kathy Nolen-Martin

Nolen-Martin, who grew up in rural Alabama, said a good education sets up students for lifelong success.

“We want to affect the day-to-day classroom experience,” she said.

To start the fund, she reached out to friends and asked them to contribute
so that it will be a permanent source of philanthropy – not just a year-to-year school fundraising effort.

“An endowment is everlasting,” she said.

Partnering with the community foundation ensures the funds will grow over time to benefit Norfolk Public Schools now and in the future.

“What are the essentials that will be around forever?” she said. “Teachers. Teachers will always be there.”

Inaugural Grants

In early 2021, the Friends of Norfolk Public Schools provided three $250 grants to support teachers and their daily classroom practices. The community foundation will monitor the grant programs for accountability.

Southside STEM Academy at Campostella — to purchase equipment that will allow students to visualize objects and documents while learning STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts in the classroom or virtually.

Blair Middle School – to purchase software that will enable students with disabilities to interview their family members, write stories using special online tools, and ultimately create a published book that will be shared.

Blair Middle School – to purchase materials for a math-focused program to build students’ understanding of integers and equations. Students will make a video of their use of these tools, and highlights will be shared throughout the school and district to demonstrate the impacts on student learning in math.

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