Second-graders participate in a robotics program at Spoede Elementary School.

It was a special moment for Diane Patershuk when she witnessed a group of second-graders speaking Mandarin at a Ladue elementary school. The Chinese language class is one of several programs funded in the Ladue School District through the Ladue Education Foundation (LEF). “It was neat to see those students participate in something like that. LEF allows us to provide those extraordinary opportunities,” says Patershuk, a member of the foundation’s board.

As a fundraising arm for the district, LEF offers a way for alumni, parents and the community to support various educational efforts in Ladue schools. Since its creation six years ago, the foundation has funded multiple projects and initiatives, including robotics courses, Cycle of Success, Junior Achievement Finance Park curriculum and a videoconferencing/broadcasting system at Ladue Horton Watkins High School. LEF supports the programs through teacher-applied grants and community partnerships with Monsanto and The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, among others. Some of the projects, like the Mandarin program, started in one school and have since spread to others in the district as a result of their success. “It’s a great tool for the district to bring in innovative programs they might not have otherwise,” Patershuk says.

While Ladue is a healthy school district, it, too, has been affected by the economic downfall; and it is important to keep the district flourishing for its 4,000- plus students from 10 different municipalities, Patershuk notes. “We need the support from the community to keep the district strong, because the stronger the district, the stronger the community is as a whole. Maintaining that type of excellence is so important to the future.”

As LEF works to simplify its focus and aid in the strategic vision of the school district, it aims to spread word of its goals, both today and in the future. To that end, LEF will hold the Sixth Annual Ladue Education Foundation Luncheon on Sept. 19 at the Ladue West Campus. The event, catered by Sugo’s Spaghetteria, will be co-chaired by Patershuk, along with Amy Dove.

The honorary chair, Ladue High alum and KMOV anchor Jasmine Huda, will share how she has been impacted as a former student. In addition, a robotics demonstration, presentations from LEF president Pradip Das and district superintendent Marsha Chappelow, as well as testimonies from a teacher and student will help to raise awareness about the foundation’s efforts. Tickets to the event are $50/person, and Patershuk hopes the afternoon will encourage even more support. “We’re looking for new ways to fund initiatives that may be outside our reach right now. Education is the key to making this a better country, and we want to push ourselves to do more.”

As second-graders practice their Mandarin, and high schoolers work on building robots, Patershuk knows LEF already has made a difference. “One way or another, we’re working to impact every student in the district for the better.”