Former student makes donation to Besser Elementary

ALPENA – Besser Elementary School was recently the recipient of Christmas cheer and generosity in the form of a $5,000 donation from former student Annele Richards.

Richards attended Besser from 1981-82, and had several other connections with the school. Her father, Jim Johnson, was a teacher there and her mother, Kathy, was an instructional assistant, and currently Richards’ niece and nephew attend Besser. Richards now works as a professional development manager for Microsoft in Detroit, but has fond memories of her early education.

“Besser has had a long history of importance in our family,” Richards said. “My parents’ first jobs in Alpena were at Besser. Since both my parents were teachers, I know how important a good education is.”

On top of the $5,000, Richards’ employer, Microsoft, will be matching it to bring the total donation up to $10,000 for the school.

“I’ve always felt that education is a privilege more than a right, and have always been appreciative of the education I received,” Richards said. “I hope it will inspire others to give back. Times are tight. I live in Detroit, and I decided to give back to Besser because I think it’s much more beneficial and ultimately more important to the Alpena school than it would be here.”

Richards said she is into technology, but put no restrictions on how the school should use the donation.

“I think sometimes we forget that these kids are our future,” Richards said. “What better way to invest in theirs and ours than by investing in their education.”

Besser Principal Eric Cardwell said the donation was “absolutely phenomenal,” and was overwhelmed by Richards’ generosity.

“It’s truly inspiring, especially at this time of year, when we have alumni that are thinking of us. It’s incredible,” Cardwell said. “Not only does the donation help, but it provides an uplift for staff. A donation like this reinforces that the staff here are doing wonderful things and making an impact that people remember and are thankful for. It is a blessing.”

Cardwell was excited about the possibilities for the donation, and said there are many improvements that could be made with the donation, such as an Elmo data document scanner projector for each teacher, and a number of other technology improvements the school is looking into.

“We’re being very careful about what we do with the donation. This doesn’t happen often and we’re going to sit on it and talk about it,” Cardwell said. “We’re going to see about the new reading series and the technology component that comes with it and decide when we know more about that.”

Richards said she felt great about giving back to Besser and knows the school will make the best decision on how to use the donation for the benefit of the students.

“I am thrilled and pleased to be able to give back, and I hope I can do it again,” Richards said. “It feels really good.”

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.