Originally published Aug. 11, 2018 in The Messenger.
By Olivia Hanson
Fort Dodge Ford Lincoln Toyota will host the Ford Drive 4 UR School event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 18 at the dealership at 2723 Fifth Ave. S.
Ford Drive 4 UR School is an event that supports education at the Fort Dodge Community School District.
At the event, any community member is able to come and test drive a car. For every unique test drive, $20 will be donated to the Fort Dodge Community Schools Foundation.
Only one person per household is eligible and they also must be 18 or older with a valid driver’s license.
The money from this event goes to technology, professional development, educational items and other things that support education, students and teachers in the classroom.
This event was coordinated by Matt Johnson, a member of the Fort Dodge Community Schools Foundation and general manager of Fort Dodge Ford Lincoln Toyota, in coordination with Molly Nelson, FDCS Foundation director, and the rest of the FDCS Foundation.
“Molly and I served on the foundation together and we just were looking for additional ways to partner, just to support the school system,” Johnson said. “This is an avenue through Ford and a partnership with the dealership and the foundation that we’re able to provide for the students. We both said, ‘hey this is something we need to do and set a date, get the community excited and get a bunch of support to support our kids.’”
The money raised through this event will go to teacher requests that will improve their students’ education beyond what district funding allows. The teachers go through an application process to request something they see as a bonus for their classroom — whether that’s technology, professional development, or something else, then the board chooses whether or not it will accept it based on its list of qualifications.
According to Nelson, the FDCS Foundation was able to put almost $20,000 into FDCSD classrooms this spring. The foundation purchased wrist heart-rate monitors for high school physical education classes, CleverBots (programmable robots) for Cooper Elementary School first-grade students, reading books for elementary students and equipment for a sensory room at Cooper.
“A sensory room is a safe space where students can relieve stress and get frustration out in order to refocus and return to the classroom,” Nelson said.
“The teachers have great ideas,” she said. “They come to the board and they are energized and I’m energized as a parent listening to them. They’re excited and they want to add all these things and a lot of times the board gets to say yes. I’m not a voting board member, but as a board member, that’s the best part of the job is making a teacher’s dream come to life. That’s got to be so fulfilling.”
Both Johnson and Nelson were Dodgers growing up and are now raising their kids as Dodgers. So it is important to them to make sure that not only their kids, but all kids in the Fort Dodge Community School District, are getting as much education support as possible before they go out into the working world.
“We’re fortunate to be in such a great community and there’s a lot of great things going on in Fort Dodge and the area,” Johnson said. “It’s exciting to see our community grow and the quality of life and this is just a small piece to support education. It’s a great time to live, work and play in Fort Dodge and we’re excited for our future, excited for the school district and obviously with a little girl at home, excited as she approaches school age to know that she has such a great school system.”
Matt Johnson, along with his parents, Casey and Deb Johnson, and his brother, Nick, moved to Fort Dodge in 1996 to start Fort Dodge Ford Lincoln Toyota. From that point on, he and his family have been involved in the Fort Dodge public schools. Johnson is married to Abigail Johnson and the two recently just had their daughter, Isabella, who is now 1.
“I’m second generation working and hopefully my daughter will have an interest in being involved someday,” Johnson said. “We’ve been very active with the school foundation, both my parents and myself. We just love education, love our teachers, love our school system and we’re just very blessed to be in Fort Dodge.”
Nelson and her husband, Kole Petersen, both grew up in the FDCSD. They both went off to college elsewhere, but have come back to raise their family in Fort Dodge. They have four children — Joseph, 8, David, 4, and twins Elya and Etta who are now 18 months.
“It’s important to support their educational experience, to make sure they have all the tools and technology and things that they need to be successful,” Johnson said. “It’s investing in our future and our community and obviously we’re excited to see the school system grow and to have all the opportunities for our students. Hopefully they decide, wherever life takes them, to come back to Fort Dodge and raise a family and establish their roots here in our community.”