About our nonprofit organization
The mission of Friends of Holyoke Public Schools, Inc., is to foster creativity and pursue excellence through arts integration in the Holyoke Public School students and support academic achievement with a particular focus on the arts by way of funding activities for youth in Holyoke.
Beginning in 1992, the Holyoke Public School District provided instruction in string instruments in three elementary and middle schools. For many years the school district’s string program was closely related to Mt. Holyoke College Professor Jacqueline Melnick’s renowned international string music festival, Musicorda. A highlight of the experience Holyoke students performed in the Musicorda festival. Unfortunately, Musicorda ended operations in 2006 and Jacqueline Melnick passed away a short time afterward. Since that time, the School Department has been able to retain two string music instructors and provide violins and cellos to over 125 students throughout each school year. In 2008, the Holyoke Public School District was forced to make significant budget cuts, putting the string programs at risk of losing funding. In an effort to keep the month long Summer Strings Program in existence, the Friends of Holyoke Public Schools (FoHPS), Inc was formed.
Since then, our organization has ensured that the program remains available, free of charge, to every Holyoke Public School student enrolled in the strings program for four days a week during the month of July. As the program continues to expand, students are also exposed to arts and crafts activities, classroom presentations by a professional luthier, story tellers, choral instruction, basic yoga and exercise, and more time devoted to practice ensembles.
In 2013, as the School Department’s focus on early literacy efforts increased, the Board of Directors witnessed a true need in the community for more arts education programming. As a result, the mission of the organization expanded and evolved to include a mini-grants program for Kindergarten through Third Grade teachers, in close alignment with the District’s commitment to early literacy. These grants have allowed teachers to apply for funding that supports the arts and literacy in their classrooms. FoHPS is a membership driven organization which seeks funding from events, grants, and community outreach to build on the long term success of arts education in the Holyoke Public School District.
Our board of directors
Tessa Murphy-Romboletti is currently President of the Board of Directors for FHPS. A Holyoke resident and a proud graduate of the Holyoke Public Schools, she attended EN White Elementary, Peck Middle School, and Holyoke High School and went on to graduate from the University of Delaware. Tessa has worked for the City of Holyoke for the last 5 years and was recently hired to be Program Manager for SPARK, Holyoke’s entrepreneurship program led by the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce Centennial Foundation. She is an active member of the St. Patrick’s Parade Committee and a lover of all things Holyoke.
Michael Moriarty is the President of Olde Holyoke Development Corporation, and prior to that practiced law in a private firm for 20 years. Earlier in his career he taught in the Holyoke Public Schools. Mike was one of the original incorporators of Friends of Holyoke Public Schools, and served as its President from 2008-2012. He continues to act as an advocate for arts education and early literacy, and was recognized for these efforts in 2014 as a BusinessWest Difference Maker for his role in Holyoke’s community lead for the Campaign for Grade Level Reading. He believes Holyoke’s Summer String Program should happen every year forever.
Doris Ransford is the retired president of the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce. During her 26-year tenure, she worked to bring the schools and the business community closer together. She has also been active in workforce development at all levels–particularly through CareerPoint and HolyokeWorks– to help close the skills gap and meet the needs of employers, residents, and the local economy. She is a resident of Holyoke.
Peggy currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Museum at Holyoke, where she also spends time volunteering. She was a member of the Holyoke School Committee from 2000 to 2013 and is also a bookkeeper for Boulais Service and Springdale Auto Sales.
Kate Sullivan is the Marketing Coordinator at Holyoke Gas & Electric, where she is responsible for community outreach, communication, advertising, public relations, and marketing efforts. As a lifelong Holyoke resident, Kate is very involved in the community, serving on the FoHPS Board of Directors since its inception in 2008. Kate also serves on the Board of Directors for the Greater Holyoke YMCA.
Maureen Ross O’Connell
Maureen Ross O’Connell is the President of Ross Insurance Agency, Inc. located in Holyoke, MA. She is a member of the Holyoke Rotary Club, where she acts as Chairperson of the Literacy Committee and Co-Chair of the Positively Holyoke Summer Concerts. In addition to working and volunteering in Holyoke, she also proudly resides here and has her entire life. She has two grown daughters and two grandchildren.
Dr. Robert Abrams
Dr. Robert Abrams is a Holyoke native who has been serving the children of Holyoke for many years as the Holyoke Public School pediatrician. Dr. Abrams’ contributions to the city of Holyoke reach far and wide. He has given his time to countless endeavors and organizations aimed at improving the lives of the young people in Holyoke and we are very proud to have him as a part of the Friends of Holyoke Public School board of directors.