FLORENCE, S.C.—Save the date: The annual School Foundation Gala will be Oct. 25 at the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology.

This year’s Distinguished Graduate will be Florence Mayor Stephen J. Wukela. Debbie Hyler, executive director of The School Foundation, said Wukela was chosen because of the strong leadership he has shown.

“If you look at what is happening around Florence, there are so many positive things taking place,” Hyler said. “When you have a great leader in charge, the partnerships come together and people work collaboratively. I think that has certainly been the case with Mayor Wukela.”

Wukela is a 1992 graduate of South Florence High School. Hyler said the Bruins drama team will be part of the entertainment at the gala.

“We always like to have students from the graduate’s home school, if possible, be part of the entertainment,” Hyler said.

The gala is one of two big fundraisers The School Foundation puts on each year. Hyler said they are crucial to the job that the foundation does.

“We have currently given over $1,205,000 in grants,” Hyler said. “In order to continue giving grants to the many, many creative and innovative teachers that we have in District One, we need to continue to raise funds.”

Hyler said she sees firsthand where the money is going and how much of a need there is for the grants.

“This time of year I am in and out of all of the schools and it just blows me away how many innovative projects are being implemented and how many are waiting in the wings to be implemented if the funding were there,” Hyler said. “We really are blessed to have a lot of creative thinkers in this district and I just hope we can raise more money so we can continue to fund those great ideas.”

Though details are still being worked out, and the foundation always likes to keep a portion of the program’s details a secret until the night of the event, Hyler said they are working with a theme of “moving from the old to the new.”

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