CATEC Foundation readies to make gifts

In March, the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center Foundation board received a $500,000 gift from an anonymous donor.

Since then, Paula Pagonakis, who sits on the nonprofit board, said the donation has spurred the foundation into high gear.

“When the sizeable gift came in we definitely had a lot of work to do to be able to position ourselves to both manage and facilitate the directions of our gift,” Pagonakis told members of the CATEC board at their meeting Tuesday. That board, which creates policy for CATEC, is composed of members of the Albemarle County and Charlottesville school boards.

Thus far, the Foundation board has conducted financial research for growing the gift — which is meant to serve as a long-term endowment — and has created application and award distribution procedures, in addition to updating the body’s bylaws.

“It’s not the glamorous work, it’s the behind-the-scenes work,” Pagonakis said. “When we’re able to award the scholarships, that will be the glamorous work.”

Pagonakis said the restrictions that came with the funds — to make investments that can help people change their lives — is the most challenging aspect.

“Many scholarships say to give a certain amount of gifts per year, but this tells us that when an opportunity presents itself, we want to be nimble enough to respond,” she said, adding that awards — which will be available to high school and adult education students — will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

The Foundation board also is seeking new members who have experience with developing processes and procedures, as well as accounting and marketing.

“We need to be found and for people to know that we have this wonderful gift to share, and we don’t have those people on the board right now,” Pagonakis said.

CATEC also is in the process of implementing a new strategic plan aimed at modernizing curriculum and linking the school more closely with Piedmont Virginia Community College.

As part of that process, the CATEC board has heard presentations from leaders of the school’s programs in recent months.

Karen Brown, who graduated from CATEC in 1984 and now teaches cosmetology at the school, said the two-year, state-certified program guides students in more than 22 areas, including the history of cosmetology, chemistry, electricity, anatomy and communication.

And many of her students find local jobs, Brown said.

“In my 15 years here at CATEC, I’m really in awe of how many of our graduates are out working in the industry,” she said, pointing to a list of nearly 80 former students. “Some have even gone into podiatry.”

“I tell the students all the time that you need to walk up to a total stranger, put them at ease, and work with them on their style, which is something that affects their self-esteem,” Brown added.

Lucinda Riley, who graduated from the cosmetology program and now owns Face Value Salon, credits the technical education center for her success.

“This couldn’t have happened for me if not for CATEC,” she said. “And we hire people who came through CATEC.”

The program is largely project-based and emphasizes practical competencies, Brown said, citing competitions and partnerships that allow students to practice on community members.

For example, cosmetology students often work with cancer patients from Martha Jefferson Hospital.

“When they go through with that, they have a new outlook on our whole profession and their lives,” Brown said.

The CATEC board next meets Oct. 20.