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Keegan family foundation aims to boost education in Nashua

By Staff | Aug 1, 2013

Students around the region will be returning not only to classes this fall, but to leadership positions as well.

There will be team captains in football, volleyball and field hockey, student government posts to run for and fill, and plenty of clubs to organize.

But what kind of support is available for students new to such leadership posts? At Bishop Guertin High School, there will be plenty, thanks to a new Leadership Institute founded with the help of the Keegan Family Courage and Faith Foundation.

“It’s basically a program that brings these different student leaders together to look at leadership from a broader perspective,” said Bishop Guertin Director of Institutional Advancement Mike Voute. “It’s not just, ‘you’re a team captain, now go!’ It’s, what does that mean? How can you as a leader of a team, in student government, in campus ministry, learn different leadership skills and, as leaders of their groups, serve the group and the school in a better way?”

The Keegan Family Courage and Faith Foundation, created by local businessman Brendan Keegan and his wife, Dana, has a simple, if giant, goal: give back $1 million to educational causes in the Nashua area. To date, the foundation has awarded about $250,000 to local school projects and initiatives to help at-risk youth.

And while the foundation has been around since 2012, with the Keegan family’s philanthropy extending much farther back, many in the community still haven’t heard of the group. That’s something the family is hoping to change.

“We want to be more vocal for the kids in the area,” Keegan said. “We need to be more vocal to get people to be a part of it and to invest in this.”

Keegan grew up in Nashua attending St. Christopher School and Bishop Guertin.

The youngest of four children, Keegan said he grew up in a close-knit family that started him off, at a very young age, on volunteer work.

“It just became ingrained in me,” he said.

He spent his years after college building a successful career in business, working to turnaround struggling companies and serving as president and CEO of four different companies.

He never lost his love of helping others, often donating with private and company dollars to various organizations and charities. By the time he was ready to move back to Nashua about four years ago, however, he started wondering if there was a better way to help.

“If you give $100 to everyone who asks, how much impact are you really having?” Keegan said. “Every dollar is good, but we wanted to have a larger impact.”

So Keegan and his wife started looking around at local organizations they could help, focusing on schools and other educational initiatives to lend their support. After a few years of making larger donations to fewer groups, they decided to take the next step: forming their own foundation to facilitate this work.

In came the Keegan Family Courage and Faith Foundation, named for a quote that Keegan said has shaped his professional career: “Have the courage to fail and the faith to succeed.”

The couple has worked to gather a strong board of directors and have already started to work with local schools on various projects.

Two percent of all revenue from the Keegans’ portfolio of companies – including Rightcoast Advisors, Velocity Performance, and Workforce Extended – is made available for the foundation, donated to various projects and initiatives in the area. With that model, Dana Keegan said, as their companies grow, so will their donations.

So far, the recipients of the Keegans’ work have been private schools, St. Christopher and Bishop Guertin, but Keegan said they’re open to helping any group with an idea to improve the lives of local youth. Their dollars won’t go to infrastructure but will go toward starting new education programs, providing better learning opportunities in classrooms and similar goals.

At St. Christopher’s, the Keegans’ donation put smart boards into every classroom, replaced black chalkboards with white boards and gave the school a wireless Internet system.

Principal Cindy Clarke said the project has marked a significant change in the school and helped engage students.

“I think we always try to provide a positive, challenging learning experience that supports each student’s potential for growth,” she said. “This has definitely helped with that.”

At Bishop Guertin, Keegan foundation dollars were used to help bring extra technology to students through the Leapfrog Project.

This fall, the high school will get another boost with the Leadership Institute.

Voute said the school is looking forward to implementing the program with the help of the Keegans, who first came to the school with the idea last year.

The institute will provide programming to all student-leaders to help them better prepare for their new roles. Some of this, Voute said, might involve tapping into Bishop Guertin’s extensive community of alumni, bringing them in for workshops.

Keegan said he’s hopeful that if the program works well at Bishop Guertin, it could be used throughout the community to help youth improve their leadership skills.

The whole idea of leadership, Keegan said, is closely tied to the family’s foundation and its efforts to raise awareness of their mission.

A lot of the work the couple hopes to do in the coming years goes beyond donating their own money to various causes. They hope to get others more involved with donating as well. When they have a project they’re helping with, Keegan said, they can bring the proposal to their friends or community members who may have an interest.

Having a specific project, and an example of the foundation’s own donation, can be just what someone needs to give their own contribution.

The Keegans said they hope bringing more awareness to their foundation will help grow the organization, not for their own sake, but to expand their reach, and their ability to help others in the community.

“We could double, or triple, our donation that way,” Keegan said. “A lot of times, people are waiting to be inspired by the right proposal. People want to give but they’re not really sure how to help.”

The Learning Curve runs Thursdays in The Telegraph. Danielle Curtis can be reached at 594-6557 or dcurtis@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Curtis on Twitter (@Telegraph_DC).


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