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#GIVINGSTORY: Julie H. Walker and Her Continued Support of Meeting Street Schools

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Sarah McCliment

Julie H. Walker is not only the founder of the J.H. Walker Legacy Foundation, a federal 501 (c)3 organization focused on financially supporting non-profit programs, but a long-time supporter of Meeting Street Schools. Julie first heard of MSS while attending a play at Dock Street Theatre and striking up a conversation with the woman next to her, who had recently donated books to Meeting Street Academy. Intrigued after their conversation, Julie further researched MSS and decided to set up a tour where she was impressed and “fascinated by the teaching model of having two per classroom and the expectation of academic excellence.” She was immediately drawn in and happy to find that MSS meets her foundation’s criteria that focuses on: education, healthcare, safety, and nutrition and food security.

Julie has now been a MSS supporter for five years. We are very grateful for her continued support of Meeting Street Academy’s Book Club and dedication to the Lunch Buddy program at MSE@Burns and MSE@Brentwood.

You can continue learning about Julie and her philanthropic efforts to MSS and beyond in the interview below.

You’re a supporter of our book club at MSA. Can you share more about how that program came to be and why you feel reading and literacy is so important?
I am a huge reader and read frequently. My goal is to read 2-3 books a month. I was intrigued with the idea of students reading a book and then having an accompanying trip. I am a believer that trip experiences for children are invaluable. The books are great and teach them the discipline and love of reading, but it was really the trip factor and ability to visit a college or university on the way and have some fabulous experiences that drew me in. It’s a pretty high award and incentive to for the children to stay involved. All the kids from Key West trip sent a postcard and every young man from San Francisco sent pictures and wrote about what books they liked the most (Members of the Meeting Street Academy Book Club traveled to Key West in and San Francisco during the 2018-2019 academic year).

We know the research is strong when it comes to the importance of strengthening a student’s literacy skills. In your work, what brings you the most joy when you think about kids and reading?
That it instills a lifelong ability to read and that the children may share their reading skills at home with younger siblings. I also think reading opens a whole new world of information and knowledge, whether it’s actually fantasy or historical fiction. It also gives students the ability to recreate the environment and use their imaginations.

Have you always been involved in education? What initially drew you to it?
I have not always been involved in education. I initially worked for an advertising and marketing firm and then I moved from Tulsa to San Francisco and became a Family and Children’s Pastor at a local church. It opened up a whole new world of learning about kids, their behaviors and how they learn. It then translated into foundation work.

We find our supporters are so connected to our work and students. How would you describe Meeting Street Schools to those who are not familiar with us?
I describe it as a high achieving educational program that has a very unique model that focuses on diverse, under-resourced communities, but the teaching model almost follows a prep school model. The expectations are set very high for students. It is highly structured and disciplined. I was there two weeks ago and marveled at how the students quietly walked down the hallway with their arms crossed (Julie is referring to the “safe body” posture that MSS teachers teach students. This technique comes from the Responsive Classroom curriculum).

We are encouraging our readers to GIVE this year on Dec. 3rd for #GivingTuesday. Whether it’s to Meeting Street Schools or to any other wonderful organization in our community, and whether it’s through financial support or through a gift of their time, we believe in the power of supporting community non-profits. Why do you believe in Philanthropy and how would you encourage those reading this to get involved in their communities?
I would recommend finding out what you’re interested in, whether that’s donating books or giving your time.

Personally, I started giving because I have a desire to be generous. It does external good by being apart of something much bigger and you can have a much wider impact by being involved in philanthropy. By working with multiple non-profits, the scope of impact is much wider than if I was doing something all on my own. It’s why I try to support different organizations. By being involved with an organization such as Meeting Street Schools, it broadens the reach. One grant can reach multiple children.

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