Apex Las Vegas puts the ‘fun’ in fundraising for local schools

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Crystal Nowery, Frank Endellicate and the Apex Las Vegas team.

Mon, Jun 24, 2024 (2 a.m.)

In just over a decade, the Las Vegas location of Apex Leadership Co. — a national fundraising organization for schools — has grown from three to about a dozen employees, and from servicing six schools to 10 times that.

The group used to only sporadically visit a school every two weeks, said Crystal Nowery, operations director for Apex Las Vegas. Now, she said, visits happen at three or four schools every two weeks. That level of growth has been really inspiring, she emphasized.

“What I’ve really seen is, we went from ‘Who are you? What do you do?’ to a household name amongst a lot of the teachers and principals,” said Nowery. “And I’ll go into a school and other teachers — maybe it’ll be a new teacher at that school — and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, yeah, you guys were at this school and you’re at that school. I know who you are.’”

The 10-day program starts with a “teacher huddle,” she said, when school instructors and the Apex team talk about expectations. On day two, all the students come together for a pep rally, where Apex employees — known as “athletes” — introduce a leadership theme that changes yearly, the lessons they’ll be teaching and the prizes available for students to earn.

Over the next several days, Apex athletes go into every single classroom on the school’s campus — which, Nowery noted, could be a public, charter or private school — and teach leadership skills to students.

Meanwhile, students raise pledges for a fitness-based fundraiser at the end of the program, and may garner a reward for their classroom depending on how many they raise.

“And so they might earn an extra recess, or they get to pie one of the Apex team members in the face, or they get kickball or a root beer float party,” she said. “There’s lots of different things that we do. And we facilitate all of that.”

The second-to-last day is event day, which includes a fitness-centric activity like a fun run or an obstacle course. Students participate and raise money through their pledges. For example, in a fun run, they may earn $1 or $2 per lap. They typically run between 26 and 36 laps, Nowery said.

“On the event day itself, there’s a lot of energy,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun. Our athletes facilitate the entire event. We provide everything for the school.”

The last day of the program is the athletes’ opportunity to say goodbye to the students and teachers, and throw any final congratulatory parties.

“And then we start all over on the next Monday,” Nowery quipped.

On average, the program raises around $40,000 to $45,000 for a school, said Frank Endellicate, owner of Apex Las Vegas. Some schools have even raised $180,000, he added.

In the past, schools have used the money for campus beautification projects, to establish a school garden, to hire a counselor that they previously couldn’t afford and even to expand their physical campus, Nowery and Endellicate said.

“We’ve helped fund actual new buildings to be built so that way they can make the schools bigger and better,” Endellicate said. “Whether it be adding theater rooms or gyms or just more classrooms. (It’s) pretty incredible.”

Nowery noted that Apex also encourages schools to give 10% of whatever a class raises back to the teacher, to use in their classroom.

The Apex athletes bring a ton of energy to the school campus environment, as does the program, Nowery said. Oftentimes the Apex team will take time to help a teacher in need, she said, like working one-on-one with a student who may be struggling socially or just needs someone to look up to.

“And it changes that student outlook for the year,” she said. “I love hearing those stories, and I hear it two or three times out of the school year — which is enough — which means that we’re making a difference. And if we change one student’s life, then, that’s amazing. That’s awesome.”

Being a part of what Apex is doing is an incredible and rewarding opportunity, Endellicate said. When athletes are getting pied in the face or dumping baked beans on a principal’s head, that’s a one-of-a-kind job, he said.

“What we do is a ton of fun, and, really, it’s a privilege,” he said. “What we get to do in schools — interact with the kiddos and just have a blast, all while raising much needed funds for the schools — it truly is the greatest job in the world.”

The Las Vegas Valley is extremely diverse, and its schools reflect that, Nowery said.

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This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.

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