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Foundation awards $80K to school grants

By Staff | Nov 25, 2015

The best teachers are the ones who think outside the box in teaching their students in a way that’s engaging and enjoyable. Thanks to the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, those teachers will financial get help in achieving that goal.

The foundation has awarded more than $80,000 to educators, schools, and administrators throughout Lee County schools through its Classroom, School, and Department Grants program, which has been around since the late 1980s and supports teachers and students by funding tools and resources that are normally not included in their budget, but are necessary to creating unique learning experiences.

As a further reward, the Foundation will host a reception for the grant recipients, selection committee members, school board members, and sponsors at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre on Monday from 5 to 7 p.m.

Margo Brewster, director of marketing and development for the foundation, said the awards are usually given to those projects that are outside the usual school curriculum.

“We want projects that are hands-on and offer unique perspectives on different areas. They’re outside the box,” Brewster said. “We’re all about elevating those outstanding teachers and the schools who go above and beyond the normal curriculum. This is an opportunity to fund these projects.”

Among the schools receiving the grants locally were: Caloosa, Dr. Carrie D. Robinson Littleton, Gulf, Hector Cafferata, and Trafalgar elementary schools; Diplomat and Mariner middle schools; Island Cast and North Fort Myers high schools, and North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts.

Teachers submit a grant application to the foundation for projects that enhance student learning through hands-on activities and unique perspectives on traditional subject areas.

Of the 90 grant applications received, 41 of those projects will receive funding. The selection committee reads and ranks the submissions.

Classroom grant categories include: arts, health, fitness and nutrition, literacy and social studies, STEM, natural environment, and literacy.

Beverly Burke, program director, said these grants weren’t just designated for classes. As of a few years ago, departments can also apply for some of the grants, which were as much as $10,000.

“They could be to increase graduation rates, low-performing students, STEM programs and other categories,” Burke said. “We match funds that the state gives us and we come up with the ones who will be rewarded.”

Among the programs selected were from Stacey Schweitzer from Island Coast High School, who got a $1,000 grant for her “Chef Du Jour” program, which will teach students with special needs real-world healthy eating by having the student list, buy, prepare and provide meals, teaching them life skills.

“These kids are getting social interaction and community involvement and are learning healthy eating and make simple food,” Schweitzer said. “They can do some of these everyday life skills. It sounds simple to us, but they get no opportunity to do them. Taking them to Publix makes their week.”

Another, from Andy Jeter of North Fort Myers High School, is called “Heat Pressin for Awesome Lessons,” which got a $991 grant to help his digital design class make T-shirts.

“We wanted out students to apply their design skills in a real-world situation. Usually, they’re hypothetical,” Jeter said. “The program is funding a heat press where we can use heat transfer paper so they can put their designs on that and apply the design.”

This will allow the program to do fundraisers for other projects and allow it to be self-sustaining, Jeter said.

“This program helps educate and guide students to reach their full potential which, in turn, creates a strong, capable workforce in our community,” said Marshall T. Bower, President & CEO of The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools in a prepared statement. “Providing a high-quality education ensures the success of our greatest asset, our children.”

Funding for the program came from the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, the Minnesota Twins, Suncoast Credit Union, and by a major grant from the Consortium of Florida Education Foundation.

The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, Inc. is a private, 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to enhance and enrich the quality of public education in Lee County for students and educators.