Karen Valko ’80: Supporting The Cortland Fund and Giving the Gift of Education

 Karen Valko ’80: Supporting The Cortland Fund and Giving the Gift of Education

07/11/2012 

When her high school students ask for college advice, geometry teacher Karen Valko ’80 usually begins her reply with two words.

“Go away,” she’ll say.

Valko, who teaches in Yonkers, N.Y., isn’t shooing her pupils to the side. Rather, she’s offering a piece of advice that she learned firsthand as a downstate transplant at SUNY Cortland in the late 1970s. Education, Valko says, affords a vital social experience that involves stepping outside one’s comfort zone.

“I feel education is very important,” said Valko, a 32-year teaching veteran who has worked in Yonkers-area schools since her college graduation. “If I’m ever encouraging kids to go (to college), I tell them: ‘Go away for a year or at least a semester. Get away. You’ve got to give it a try. You’ve got to break the ties.’”

Valko lived out the advice during her own college experience when she journeyed to Raquette Lake for a physical education course. A self-described independent city girl, the outdoor episode that involved digging her own latrine and plunging into bone-chilling lake water was the moment of a lifetime.

You can designate a gift for a program with personal significance. Or you can support the College’s mission to offer a transformational education for every student. The Cortland Fund's 2011-12 fiscal year ends Saturday, June 30. Make your gift today.

“Overall, it was just a lot of fun and the best thing I could have done,” Valko said. “It was different than anything I had ever experienced.”

Making sure today’s SUNY Cortland students enjoy those same experiences is one of the reasons she has supported the College financially. She’s offered a monetary gift to The Cortland Fund, the annual fundraising arm for SUNY Cortland’s educational programs, almost every year since her graduation, increasing it little by little over time.

Alumni like Valko keep the College’s annual giving program successful, said Jennifer Janes, the director of The Cortland Fund.

“Her story is a wonderful reminder of the notion that every little bit helps,” as The Cortland Fund strives to reach its 2011-12 fiscal year goal by Saturday, June 30, said Janes. “She’s a firm believer in public education and it shows.”

With more than 80 percent of SUNY Cortland students relying on financial assistance, The Cortland Fund’s top priority is student scholarship, Janes said. Additional gifts are funneled to support undergraduate research, cultural programming and faculty development, among other avenues.

“The financial gifts we receive are invested in Cortland’s most important resources: the students and faculty members who make this campus what it is,” Janes said. “So every gift — big or small — goes to them.”

Janes said she’s encouraged by the fact that 747 donors to the College have made an annual gift for 10 or more consecutive years. Establishing a pattern of giving among SUNY Cortland alumni — one similar to Karen Valko’s — is attainable, she believes.

Valko, who majored in physical education and minored in mathematics at SUNY Cortland, has witnessed the dwindling financial support for education firsthand.

“Especially teaching in the city schools, I’m aware of budgeting and things of that sort,” Valko said. “I felt that if there was anything that I could give back, then I would do so. If a small amount of money can help just one student continue on in college, then I’m happy to give."

The payoff, she said, is a lifelong learning experience for the student.

“Education is my passion,” she said. “So passing it on is easy for me.”


More News

Dance Study Applies to Global Conflict

Dance Study Applies to Global Conflict

Andrew Fitz-Gibbon will help SUNY humanities colleagues research body arts to heal social strife.


Kelly Lickert-Orr Named National Coach of the Year

Kelly Lickert-Orr Named National Coach of the Year

The women's lacrosse head coach led the team to a national title in her first year


Graduate Work on Dental Health Brings National Honor

Graduate Work on Dental Health Brings National Honor

Lindsay Argyle M ’15 put together a culminating master’s project on dental hygiene that led to a national award.


Students Find Summer Work in Research

Students Find Summer Work in Research

Many students, including summer research fellows, are pursuing original hands-on work under the guidance of faculty mentors.


College and Community to Celebrate ADA Anniversary

College and Community to Celebrate ADA Anniversary

A local celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act takes place Saturday, July 25.


Political Science Professor Excels at Guessing Game

Political Science Professor Excels at Guessing Game

Timothy Delaune's fantasy game helps him bring his best game into the classroom.


Cortland Listed as One of the Nation’s Greenest Colleges

Cortland Listed as One of the Nation’s Greenest Colleges

BestColleges.com ranks SUNY Cortland among the 40 greenest colleges in the US


Joe Brown Named National Coach of the Year

Joe Brown Named National Coach of the Year

The College's baseball coach led the program to its first national title.


College to Mark Anniversary for Antlers

College to Mark Anniversary for Antlers

An Aug. 22 event is planned by the William H. Parks Family Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education.


Math Guru to Address Master Teachers at College

Math Guru to Address Master Teachers at College

Math expert Dan Meyer has talked numbers on “Good Morning America,” “Everyday with Rachel Ray” and CNN.


Explore

Visit

Contact