Mary Lyon Foundation Updates
Affiliate interview: Alia Woofenden
Friends of the Foundation: Alia Woofenden
Alia Woofenden is a versatile leader who is deeply invested in the growth and prosperity of local students. As the Liaison for Community Engagement and Enrichment Programs for the Mohawk Trail Regional School District, she organizes and executes programs for students such as vacation camp during the February and April school breaks, a district enrichment program for students in grades three to six, the Summer Explorers Program and Camp, and assists in guiding essential public health programs such as CPR certification.
More Than Just An Education
Woofenden began working with the Mary Lyon Foundation in the summer of 2021. She became involved after recognizing the Foundation’s ability to serve families and assist in providing for their basic needs. Alia is grateful for the work the Foundation does and applauds the District and the Foundation for providing more for students than just an education, “Students have basic needs – it’s imperative that they’re fed and have healthy meals regularly. If these fundamental needs are not met, they will have a hard time focusing on their academics,” she said.
Since the partnership between the District and the Foundation began, she said the Mary Lyon Foundation has provided five scholarships per week to students whose families qualify so that they can attend the camps she facilitates. Additionally, the Foundation has funded scholarships for certification programs and has provided snacks for additional programs that Alia supports. Alia reflected, “Without the help of the Foundation, students would not have the ability to pay for many of our certifications and programs, which often lead directly to employment opportunities.”
She went on to elaborate on the collaboration between the two regarding the Foundation’s newly established Literacy Program. Alia recently partnered with the Foundation to host a Literacy Night, which provided free books, fun activities, food, and additional resources for families to enjoy.
Leveling the Playing Field
Alia emphasized the Foundation’s ability to “level the playing field” for all students, something she said she’s always envisioned doing. She explained that her hope, which has been supported by the Foundation, is to ensure that all “forgotten” students, such as those in rural environments, have the tools they need to succeed in all they do.
Her favorite part of collaborating with the Foundation is the ability to look at the “big picture” and focus on the “whole student.” She expressed her gratitude for Mary Lyon Foundation’s Executive Director, Kristen Tillona-Baker, exclaiming, “Kristen is always responsive, ready to listen, creative, generous, and ready for a challenge. She makes me feel included in the school community.”
Removing Barriers for Growth
Alia encourages others to get involved with the Foundation to help with breaking down the barriers that so often prohibit student growth. She acknowledged, “In our rural district, we have some students that have limited resources and reduced access to pivotal things such as the food bank, and Kristen helps remove those barriers.” Alia went on to describe how Kristen delivered meals to families directly who couldn’t access the food bank during the covid-19 pandemic in the summer of 2021.
Alia attributes the Foundation with giving her the time and space needed to better focus on her job responsibilities, because she knows the resources and support the Mary Lyon Foundation provides are unwavering. She emphatically stated, “I look forward to our continued collaboration.”