At Hamilton, Mitch Bierman ’21 is more than 700 miles away from his home in Newton, Ill., but he left something behind that will help people in the community remember him.
Before he came to College Hill, Bierman established a non-profit organization, Eagle for Life, in Newton. The organization will provide a permanent source of funding for future school improvements at Newton Community High School.
The idea for this project emerged when Bierman took a class, “Creating Entrepreneurship Opportunities (CEO),” as a senior in high school. The business course required all students to create their own individual business and a class business. “I decided I’d create a non-profit to benefit my high school,” Bierman said. “Our school building is old and doesn’t get many funds for improvements.” Newton has a population of around 2,500 and the school district has 400 students.
A former Newton high school football player, Bierman took it upon himself to paint the high school locker rooms before his senior year. At Hamilton he was starting running back on the football team last fall, and will compete on the track and field team this spring.
Bierman’s non-profit was officially opened to donations in May, 2017, and quickly raised $10,000, mostly by simply calling on various local businesses. “We raised $7 or $8000 through networking, just asking people,” he said. Now the organization has an endowment and as Bierman said, “We want our money to grow, and use it over time.”
I wanted to do something lasting to benefit the area.
The Eagle for Life School Improvement Fund is operated through Jasper County Community Foundation, an affiliate of Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation. The foundation has a Fund Advisory Committee consisting of community members and a member of the Community Foundation Board.
Representatives from all Newton school district facilities provide a “wish list” of school improvement projects to the Eagle for Life Fund Advisory Committee. The committee then selects a project and appeals to the community to raise the funds.
In October the Eagle for Life fund purchased new mats for the high school gymnasium. When Bierman went home during Hamilton’s winter break in December, the organization announced its next project — a $10,000 donation for a new playground at the elementary school and a $5,000 sound system for the elementary school gym.
“There’s something special about Newton,” Bierman said. “There’s a sense of pride in being able to rely on the community, and I wanted to do something lasting to benefit the area.”