I hope that 2016 has left you all well and that you’ve all enjoyed a wonderful holiday season here to cap it off. I know that there has been a lot of talk about how 2016 was, on the whole, a difficult year for many people, but I’m happy to report that 2016 gave all of us at Middle Tree a year we can look back at and be very proud of.
Our Biggest News
Our biggest news is that we’re growing. Quickly. When 2016 started we had a little less than 20 students. However, our Summer Enrichment and Educational Development (SEED) program gave us a real jolt and we wound up starting in September with over 30 students enrolled by the fall. In a few short months our student body has doubled in size; and it’s done so because Middle Tree continues to offer the highest quality supplemental education program in the area for ⅓ – ⅕ the cost of for-profit competitors.
Why We’ve Been Successful
Of course, both the quality and the cost are things we’re very proud of. Middle Tree was founded because we wanted to make the best possible program we could offer also the most affordable. And while there’s always room for improvement, we’ve largely accomplished what we set out to do — which is to give people a safe environment to learn whatever they’d like or need to in whatever ways suit them best. We do this by not having a particular program, but by focusing on the individual student and letting him or her be an active participant in their own learning.
Middle Tree is Now a 501(C)(3) Charitable Organization
Our other big news was that we finally received our tax exempt status. Although Middle Tree has always been a non-profit, we had to wait to be cleared by the IRS to be fully tax exempt. (Uncle Sam doesn’t just let you not pay taxes.) So we’re now eligible to apply for grants, accept donations, have fundraisers, and enjoy all the benefits of becoming a charitable organization. Our hope is that we’ll soon begin to lay the groundwork for a fundraising program that lets people sponsor students to come to Middle Tree and have access to the same kinds of programs others are able to enjoy.
Again, that IS our mission: to make education both affordable and equally accessible for all people. But you can help us in that mission, if not through a donation then by spreading the word about our goals. Of course, if you’re already a member or you’ve been a member in the past you know how dedicated we are to making sure every student who walks through our doors walks out of them having gained something wholly worthwhile. But the only way our program is successful is through your participation within it. Middle Tree is an opportunity for you as both a student and a parent to have a say in how education is administered: it’s a way around the school system through person-to-person direct learning. Our concern is not only how students relate to a particular lesson or assignment, but how they approach education in its entirety. The beauty of our program is that not only are we offering an affordable alternative to high-priced tutors and other learning centers, but we’re also offering a solution to the pitfalls of an educational system that is overloaded, understaffed, and drastically underfunded.
Memberships & Scholarships in 2017
Middle Tree gives our members two things: time and money. It gives the latter not only by setting our base prices so low, but also by offering scholarships to those who qualify. Our scholarship program is another thing I’m extremely proud of: we set aside a certain amount of money every quarter (at a loss to our bottom line) and hand out tuition remission for all those who qualify. It’s just another way we’re trying to give everyone truly equal access to the kinds of programs we offer. With more funding from grants, fundraisers, and private donations, we hope to have even more money to fund our scholarships and give more people a chance at an education they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.
Something You Should Know About Middle Tree
However, what I’m most proud of and what I’m most thankful for as I look back on 2016 are the people who’ve helped to make Middle Tree what it is currently. From our kind, caring, and out-and-out brilliant staff, to our equally brilliant and overall wonderful students, all of you have served to make Middle Tree more than a good idea: you’ve made it something that works and benefits all involved. I made this admission in our last newsletter (which you can find here: http://www.middletree.org/blog/), but something I had been hesitant to say in the past is that all of our staff volunteer here at Middle Tree.
However, as I also mentioned earlier, since we’ve experienced such tremendous growth, I can proudly announce that all of our staff members are now compensated for their time here — which would be wonderful and exciting news in and of itself. But, just so you’re aware of the kind of people we have working here, I think it’s equally important that you know that while everyone is now financially compensated, all of them — to the last — still volunteer a vast amount of their time here. If nothing else, that to me says more about our program than anything else: not only do these people come to work for next to nothing during the hours that they do get paid for, but on top of that they then donate their time out of their passion for education, for our students, and for our program. Again, every single person here does this. And they do it because every single person here believes in Middle Tree as a real alternative to an educational system that could be better. And we feel we’re making an impact one student at a time.
What to Look for in 2017
In 2017 we hope to see Middle Tree take another giant step forward. We’re going to be more interactive on the web — from our soon-to-be-refurbished home page (www.middletree.org), to our new mobile site, new videos and internet lesson plans, to our freshly-themed social media pages (follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/middletree.org Twitter:@middle_tree, Instagram: middle_tree), to making other programs like Moodle, Education.com, and Quizlet available to all of our students. We’ll also be doing monthly workshops, hosting talks and seminars, and carving whatever other inroads we can towards being a center for social growth through education and the arts.
All and all, Middle Tree is starting to blossom. We hope that 2017 will be a giant step forward in that happening, and we hope that you’ll be here with us to help us in that growth. Because we really do believe we’re making an impact on how education is accessed and administered — albeit a small one at the moment. With your help, 2017 will be a year that this small impact will become a little larger and a little more impactful, but still a lot of help to those in need.
Here’s wishing all of you and yours a safe and happy new year.
Joseph G. Atman, S.T.D.
250 W. 1st St., #256
Claremont, CA 91711