The Tradition of Excellence Continues at Carmel Education Foundation

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January 2020

The torch has officially been passed to a new executive director at Carmel Education Foundation (CEF) this month. Retired co-executive directors Barbara Danquist and Stephanie McDonald led CEF for seven years, strengthening the organization—internally and externally—increasing awareness of not only its purpose but the impact that CEF has on the Carmel community as a whole.

What Is the Purpose of the Carmel Education Foundation?

CEF is one of the oldest foundations of its kind. It was established in 1966 and has awarded over $2,000,000 in college scholarships to Carmel High School (CHS) seniors and over $525,000 in education grants to increase student achievement for all 16,000 Carmel Clay School (CCS) students. The CEF Board of Directors funds education grants to teachers and awards more than 100 college scholarships every school year.

CEF also contributes to the strengthening of community ties between the school district and the community at large by hosting a number of events throughout the year that are supported by individuals, families and businesses in Carmel. The annual Ghosts and Goblins 5K/2K is a popular tradition that fundraises for CEF in addition to its annual Showcase and Telethon events.

Leaving a Legacy

Danquist and McDonald shared their parting thoughts about what the support from the CCS district, CEF board and volunteers and the community members has meant to them over the years.

“We [Stephanie and I] are so proud of what we’ve done, and we did it with such love for the people that we’ve raised funds for in the school district,” Danquist shared. “But it was time to hand it [CEF] over to a new person [Penix] and let her continue to grow it.”

McDonald added, “A great part of the joy of this job was the two of us working together. Barb and I served on the [CEF] board, and when I look back over the seven years, to have worked with this woman—so closely—there obviously had to be something very special about Barb for us to be able to do that. Another great joy has been watching what we have done and sharing it with one another. That’s been very important. We didn’t do any of it for applause. We did all of these things over these years to make a difference in the classrooms.”

Both Danquist and McDonald expressed their gratitude to all of their supporters, including the business community.

“When we took this job on, the foundation was not well known in the community,” Danquist said. “We’ve been very pleased with the response that we’ve had from families, individuals, sponsors and community leaders throughout the community that have willingly been a part of the events, have donated time or money and have helped us achieve our goals. We have enjoyed being embraced by the businesses because we were schoolteachers and we came from a completely different background.”

McDonald added, “And we are grateful to community leaders like Jeff Worrell who’s been more than willing to help us with anything we’ve asked him to do. He’s just one example of the many people who have embraced the foundation and supported us, and that [support] has been huge.”

Introducing the New Executive Director

The CEF Board of Directors named Jennifer Penix as incoming executive director last October, and Penix became active in her role on January 2 of this year. Just as her predecessors have done, Penix will work closely with CCS administrators to maximize the positive influence that the CEF has at all 15 schools.
Jennifer Penix

Penix previously served as the development and special events manager for Junior Achievement of Central Indiana. She has also been a dedicated volunteer in the Carmel community and has extensive board leadership and nonprofit experience, having served on local boards and committees including CEF.

Her work to transform the Taste of Carmel into a wildly popular and successful annual event that raises funds for Orchard Park Elementary is one of her most notable accomplishments on her nonprofit resume.

“My goal is finding ways that we can harness some of the power within the community that exists and focus on education,” Penix said. “I’d like to bring in a business that might want to fund a particular grant or bring in a program for students that is geared towards workforce development or that fills a gap that the district doesn’t currently provide. We’re going to look at ways to bridge the community and the school system even greater and continue to let people know that foundation exists and what it does.”

When asked what she’ll take from McDonald and Danquist, Penix shared, “They have built the foundation to be such a positive partner with the schools, and they have been such great advocates for teachers—truly our champions for the educators and students. They have incredible passion that has driven everything they’ve done. It’s going to be hard to follow in their footsteps, but I’m really grateful that they’ve elevated the foundation to the level that it is. We can only continue to build upon that.”

Visit for more information on the Carmel Education Foundation.