Jennifer Penix knows she has big shoes to fill. Or, more accurately, she said she has two pairs of shoes to fill.
In early January, Penix became executive director of the Carmel Education Foundation, replacing co-executive directors Barb Danquist and Stephanie McDonald. Danquist and McDonald, who had been in those roles since 2012, want to spend more time with their children and grandchildren.
Danquist retired in 2010 as a Carmel Middle School sixth-grade teacher. McDonald retired as Carmel High School’s chair of the family and consumer science department in 2006.
“I spent two years enjoying the retirement life just exploring, and then Stephanie and I – who had been members of the CEF board – had been asked if we would come in and work as interim co-executive directors as they were transitioning,” Danquist said. “It has been a wonderful job. For us, the whole idea of the foundation is we were here to support the school system and what it was doing for the education of the students in Carmel.”
McDonald echoed the sentiment.
“We loved every minute of it,” McDonald said. “Having been former teachers in the Carmel system, we really had a passion for what we wanted to do with the foundation. Barb and I had been part of the volunteer board prior to taking the job. We had run the telethon for a number of years. When they asked us, we said we think we can do this. I loved working with Barbara. It’s just been a great experience for me.”
Danquist said the foundation issued $5,000 in grants in the fall of 2012.
“Last year, we gave away close to $40,000 in grants,” Danquist said. “One of our goals was to raise the money for the district from different fundraisers to support the grant for an individual teacher or a group of teachers.”
When Danquist and McDonald took over, the foundation’s fundraising Ghosts and Goblins 5K/2K races drew 700 participants. Last year, there were 2,500.
In addition, Danquist said there were 69 scholarships for CHS seniors and now more than 100 are awarded.
“We don’t raise money for our scholarships. It’s all donor-based,” Danquist said. “We’ve been very excited we’ve been able to add more scholarships to help more seniors vocationally as well as a four-year college. We had a lot of support from the parents as well as the community.”
Danquist said she and McDonald always found doing the duties together was the best approach. Danquist said it was fun to share ideas.
“We become one person, one brain,” Danquist said.
Penix, who had been a CEF board member, previously served as the development and special events manager for Junior Achievement of Central Indiana.
Penix is pleased McDonald and Danquist are staying on through January to help with the transition.
McDonald said Penix has a great background in fundraising and organization.
“I think she’ll take it to new heights,” McDonald said. “I feel we made positive progress and Jenn will carry that forward.”
Penix has three children, Soraya, a 2019 CHS graduate, Sebastian, a CHS senior, and Sadie, a CHS freshman.
“I worked as a staff member in one of the elementary schools (Orchard Park),” Penix said. “I actually received a grant from the foundation years ago to have radios in each of the classrooms when I was part of the PTO at Orchard Park (Elementary). I’ve been involved with the school district since 2005 in one capacity or another.”
Penix said she wants to enhance the fundraising role.
“My goal will be furthering the impact of the foundation within the community and bringing the community into the schools in that capacity as well,” Penix said.