Verhagen Family Discusses ‘Our Kids Excel’ Fund With NJ-SP School Board

A local family interested providing assistance to North Judson-San Pierre students is collaborating with the Starke County Community Foundation and school officials to make it happen.

North Judson natives and NJ-SP graduates Kirt and Chris Verhagen and their sister Amy Mosher came before the school board during their June meeting to discuss their mission to level the playing field for local students.

Amy shared, “Many of you know that most small schools in rural areas do not receive the funding for programs that the larger schools can offer. These are much needed programs to benefit kids to help them be on the same page as kids from larger schools” 

Kirt spoke next, naming some of the potential programs they’re interested in starting at NJ-SP.

He said after collaborating with Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin they came up with a few priorities which included a robotics program and tutoring sessions.

They also discussed the possibility of getting a shuttle in place that would bus current students and recent graduates from North Judson to the Ivy Tech in Valpo to help improve access to post-secondary opportunities.

A few other areas where they’d like to see funding utilized in the future included assisting the band and choir programs and offering civic-related and cultural field trips.

Kirt added that they’re also eager to hear from the board, school officials and community members about ideas that they have for potential programs that could be funded.

In addition to providing more opportunities for local students, Kirt noted that adding these programs to the curriculum may be a differentiator for NJ-SP that would entice families to pick North Judson as a place to live.  

To help make these dreams a reality, the family has started two separate funds through the Starke County Community Foundation.

One fund has been created in memory of their father Dr. Roger C. Verhagen and it is simply called the ‘Verhagen Family Fund’. They also created the ‘Our Kids Excel!’ fund as a way to give residents a chance to invest in the community’s future through NJ-SP students.

Community Foundation Director of Development Jessica Martinović explained that while the Verhagen family has the freedom to contribute to any charitable causes with their family fund, including the NJ-SP programs they discussed, the Our Kids Excel Fund will operate a little differently.

She noted, “The ‘Our Kids Excel Fund’ it’s a field of interest fund so we’re going to promote for the community to give to that fund. People will put their contributions in there and the school will apply for grants and then the Community Foundation will review the grants.”

Martinović mentioned that Amy will be a member of the grants’ committee so the family will still have a voice in the process though it will ultimately be a collective decision. She said they set up the two funds as a way to assure donors that the Our Kids Excel funds will specifically go to benefit NJ-SP students.

Kirt added that they also have an interest in using some of the family funds as match money for community challenges.

If you’re interested in donating to the cause, you can do so online at by clicking Donate and selecting ‘Our Kids Excel’ when designating your gift.

Checks can also be sent to the Northern Indiana Community Foundation at PO Box 807, Rochester, IN, 46975. Be sure to put ‘Our Kids Excel’ in the memo line so your contribution benefits NJ-SP students.

If you have any questions, contact the Starke County Community Foundation at 574-772-3665.

Audio from the presentation that the Verhagen family provided during the NJ-SP School Board meeting can be found below: