High school in Topeka gets $5 million donation from alumna’s estate

TOPEKA — The estate of a woman who died last year has donated $5 million to her former high school in a poor Kansas neighborhood.

The Topeka Public Schools Foundation announced the gift Tuesday from the estate of Susan Guffey, an alumna of the school. The money won’t be used to build something in her honor, but rather will support students and programs at Highland Park High School, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Among those who might benefit are students who had to participate in bake sales and other fundraisers in the past to pay for things like out-of-state trips, said Pamela Johnson-Betts, the foundation’s executive director.

“We now are going to be able to say to those students and staff: ‘Come to us. We have a pot of money that will make sure that the students we serve are going to be able to take every opportunity they want,'” she said.

Guffey spent her later years in the Seattle area, where she often contributed to programs anonymously.

Former principal Dale Cushinberry recalled that he met her more than a decade ago as she toured the school. When she asked how she could help, he said the school had a goal of having every student read three modern novels. Cushinberry said the problem was that the school didn’t have three modern novels.

The next week, he had a check to meet that need, and then some. Other gifts followed, one for $200,000. But her last is the largest in the Topeka school district’s history.

“I think it’s because of where she grew up, and I would say that, for many of us who grew up on the east side of town, there’s a desire to prove ourselves,” Johnson-Betts said. “A lot of times, people think that because you live in a certain ZIP code, you’re not as worthy as others.”


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