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Hillmen Messenger

The School Newspaper of Placer High School

Hillmen Messenger

The School Newspaper of Placer High School

Hillmen Messenger

The Hillmen Foundation “provides a margin of excellence” for Placer students

When it comes to Placer’s unique educational programs, students have the Hillmen Foundation to thank. 
The Hillmen Foundation wishes to put a marquee sign next to the Hillman statue along High St.
The Hillmen Foundation wishes to put a marquee sign next to the Hillman statue along High St.

The Hillmen Foundation has funded Placer High School’s classroom and athletic activities since it was founded in 1989 by PHS principals Tom Johnson and Jug Covich. 

“Our whole goal is to try to bridge those funding gaps between what the state provides and what you need to have an exceptional education,” said the foundation’s chair, Shana McDonald. “We try to provide that margin of excellence, as I like to say.” 

Former PHS teacher Bob Burge has been a member of the foundation since its beginning, first as a board member, and then as the chairman. According to Burge, the Foundation tries to provide for Placer High School in three areas: academics, student activities, and athletics. 

“Some things you can see… like the centennial archway, the Crabbe shack… we helped pay for that,” Burge said, “Mostly what we’ve done is in the classroom.”

Some of the Hillmen Foundation’s contributions to the campus include student scholarships, the scoreboard and snack bar in the LeFebvre stadium, instruments for the band, cameras for the yearbook, and funding for Placer Vault, Leadership, and AVID.

“We fund field trips for the science department to go down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Spanish classes to go to San Francisco, AVID students to visit colleges,” Burge said.

While most of what the Hillmen Foundation does benefits the classroom, Burge has some ideas on how to enhance Placer’s campus – starting with building a letter board beside the Hillman statue. 

“To let people know what’s going on at the school,” he explained.

As for scholarships, there are three offered to Placer students directly through the Foundation, as well as separate scholarships for the Athletics Hall of Fame.

“I do believe strongly that if we have a strong high school… it’s gonna encourage people to come here and be a part of Auburn,” said McDonald. “I think it’s really important that our high school is as strong as it can be.”

A large portion of the Hillmen Foundation’s profits are donations from alumni and Auburn locals. However, over the years, they’ve also raised money from events such as the school’s centennial celebration in 1997 and the 125-year anniversary in 2022. Another major event that the Hillmen Foundation benefits from is the annual Big Day of Giving. This event, which will be taking place on May 2, 2024, brings in about $15,000 in donations a year. 

“I don’t think people often think about giving to their high school, especially a public high school,” McDonald said. To potential donors, she reminds, “As a non-profit organization, anyone who gives us a gift, it’s tax deductible.”

Even though the Hillmen Foundation works closely with the school and the counseling office, they are independent of the district. 

“My goal is to get us over the $1 million mark in terms of our impact,” said McDonald. As of 2023, they’ve provided the school with over $900,300.

The Hillmen Foundation’s biggest long-term goal, according to McDonald, is to provide students with everything they need to excel at school and do whatever they want with their futures. 

“Again, we wanna give back so that someone like you has just the state of the art education and everything you really need to be successful as you get ready to go off to college… or whatever you wanna do,” she said.

In 2024, the Foundation will have been around supporting Placer students for 35 years. McDonald says they are planning small events to celebrate this event, but also that they hope to fundraise more in the future.

“You’re gonna see a lot more of us,” she says.

The Hillmen Foundation can be found at their website,

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