The brightest stars in the Grain Valley School District galaxy gathered this week at the high school to honor a man whose vision, intellect and generosity have impacted hundreds of students for more than 30 years.
Superintendent Marc Snow, past superintendents Roy Moss and David Hackett, principal Jeremy Plowman, past principal and A+ curriculum founder Beth Mulvey, School Board president Chris Bamman and board members and a standing room only crowd attended the unveiling ceremony of the new Allen Lefko Business Center at Grain Valley High School.
Lefko, the chairman of the Bank of Grain Valley, is responsible for the school’s district’s middle school Choices program, the A+ program and countless scholarships.
And it all began with two dozen cookies.
“My opportunity to become a part of the Grain Valley School District happened 30 years ago when Pam Perry – who still works in the high school administrative office – came to me with the idea of a scholarship reception,” said Lefko, as he was joined by his wife Barbara and family members at the unveiling ceremony.
“She baked two dozen cookies and asked if I would be interested in covering the rest of the expenses.”
He readily agreed and the Bank of Grain Valley provided the first $1,000 to one of senior scholars.
“We had 15 outstanding students that first year,” Lefko continued, “and the number has grown to more than 400 students and parents who attend the annual scholarship banquet. I think it goes without saying that Pam no longer provides the cookies for that many people.”
But the generous Lefko still provides scholarships. He refuses to take credit for the growth of the scholarship program, but he and the Bank of Grain Valley have made countless donations to provide for the financial need for the Eagles students.
His next opportunity to help came when he founded the Choices program, a visionary quest where professionals from all fields visited eighth grade students and provided them a variety of choices – some good, some bad – to give them a life lesson before they reach high school.
“Choices was a program that encouraged eighth graders to graduate from high school and go on to higher education,” Lefko said, “whether it be a junior college, four-year school, vocational school or the armed services.”
One drawback to the program was the simple fact that many students didn’t have the funds to go on to college.
Once again, Lefko and his generosity, saved the day.
“I heard about the A+ program in neighboring school districts, but it was not in our Grain Valley School District,” he explained. “I talked to David Hackett and he agreed we needed the program. But two things stood in the way – funding and a curriculum geared towards the program.”
Lefko personally funded the program and Mulvey was hired by the school district to create the curriculum.
“We love Mr. Lefko,” Mulvey said. “I spent some of the best years of my professional career working with him on the A+ program. He has done so much for our community and our school district without any fanfare or recognition.
“That’s why I’m so pleased everyone is here today to honor and thank him.”
Snow, who introduced Lefko before the unveiling, agreed.
“This is a very significant event in the history of our school district,” Snow said, as Lefko – a man who shies away from recognition – fidgeted near the podium. “There are very few instances of something at a school being named for someone.
“It’s such an honor to recognize Mr. Lefko with the Allen Lefko Business Center. I hope our students take some time to read the plaque to find out what Mr. Lefko has done for this school and so many of its students.”
Every year, 40 or more Grain Valley students receive more than $60,000 in scholarships thanks to Lefko’s generosity and that school’s A+ program.
“Not a bad investment on two dozen cookies,” he quipped, as he made his way to a table that was loaded with dozens and dozens of cookies. “I wonder if Pam made these?”