LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Nolan Middle School is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and eight of those years have been under the leadership of its respected principal, Nancy High, who is retiring after a 35-year career in education.
With a growing population of over 1,100 students from the surrounding Lakewood Ranch community, High faced a difficult task maintaining an enriching curriculum despite budget constraints from funding cutbacks.
Saturday's Nolan Night On Main, the school's sixth annual fundraiser and family event held on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch, was a perfect opportunity to showcase Nolan's musical and artistic talent and enjoy an arcade filled with student-hosted games, silent and live auctions, vendor exhibits and lots of food from barbecue to candied apples. It was also a special moment to honor both the school's decade an
niversary as part of the Manatee County School District and its departing principal, who said the money raised will be put to good use.
"Often students participate in events, and they need scholarships to help them pay for field trips, so this will go to very deserving students. We also need to purchase software and different technology, which is expensive, so the money raised here will support this," High said.
Last year, the fundraiser netted $12,000 in just one night, with the help of hundreds of students, parents and teachers who returned again ready to reach that mark. Nolan Night on Main's annual organizer, assistant principal Tamara Cornwell, says it's always a win-win situation for the school.
"Our students are ready to perform for the public, and this is their chance to shine as well as raise money, so it's a win-win."
Cornwell said hundreds of local businesses donated gifts for the auction which the teachers collected, and parents worked diligently to put all the gift baskets together.
"It's a great opportunity for the kids and the parents to come out and meet everyone and help raise money for some fantastic programs. They put a lot of hard work into it," said Michelle Wilcox, a parent of two Nolan students, Hope and Ty, who said her children love getting involved with the school and helping with community events.
"It's wonderful to see them get that responsibility aspect of it."
Nolan Night on Main was also a chance for the students to show off their musical and artistic talent with performances by the Nolan Middle School concert band, orchestra and choir, as well as artwork in the form of face painting hosted by art students and their teacher, Wade Smith.
Noland's band director, Amanda Lyon, said the students were particularly excited about performing in public because they got the chance to play more casual pop and rock music than the concert band material they work on in school.
"This is more of a break for them. It's not the same stuff we work on during the school year, so for them, this is all sorts of fun," Lyon said.
Seventh-grader Ryland Buck enjoyed his time away from the music volunteering for one of the game booths where participants toss milk bottles into a bucket.
He had nothing but praise for the school.
"I love Nolan. I like how nice the teachers are, and the curriculum is really smooth, not too hard and not too easy."
The highlight of the evening was a special tribute to their principal, who was surprised by her family and granddaughter who came from out of town to serenade her with songs from the hit Disney movie "Frozen."
A local Parrish company even donated an ice throne that was sponsored by the Technology Student Association in the principal's honor.
Passerby Barbara Riegner of Bradenton, visiting Main Street with some guests, hadn't expected so much activity but felt it was her lucky day.
"There are so many wonderful things here. I am so impressed by it all."
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.