By Dedra Cordle
When it is time for members of the Kiwanis Club of Hilltop to seek donations for their annual elementary and middle school grant program, they are overcome with feelings of excitement and uncertainty.
Having been an established program for 15 years, the Kiwanis members know the impact these grants have on the teachers and students within the community and they are excited to share its benefits with potential sponsors. But, at the same time, they are aware that funds can be tight for local businesses and with that comes uncertainty that they will not be able to raise enough money to fund everything – or anything – that is requested.
“This is very much a year-to-year thing so we are always worried about the sustainability of the program,” said Paul Pennell, co-chair of the Vocational Guidance Committee.
According to Sandra Robert, the grant coordinator of the Vocational Guidance Committee, the program received $7,000 last year and $5,000 the previous two years from the club and local sponsors. The upward trend continued this year when Robert announced at the luncheon on Jan. 14 that they had raised a record amount of $10,000 for this year’s recipients.
“This was a really good year,” she said with a big smile.
Because of the record-breaking amount raised, the Kiwanis Club was able to give grants to 27 educators at 11 area elementary and middle schools. Bucking trends of previous years where educators asked for tech items such as iPads for the classroom, this year focused on books.
Of the 27 educators who sought grants, nearly half of them requested funds for books.
At John Burroughs Elementary, Kim Baxter, Amy Davidson, Kimberly DeMond, Pamela Gould and Brittany Sparks received grants of $450, $450, $500, $375 and $425, respectively so they could add reading materials to their classrooms.
Sparks, who teaches a fourth and fifth grade split, said she will purchase new books so her students can continue their monthly “book battles” where they debate the merits, or lack thereof, of the novels they read.
At Eakin Elementary, Melinda Hunter, Jan Kinney, Elizabeth Marsh, Maria Romero and Mary Taylor received grants of $270, $400, $500, $450, and $450, respectively, to add reading materials to their classroom.
Taylor, who teaches second grade, said she will use the grant money to buy new books and send them home with students so they can practice their literacy skills outside of the classroom.
Educators who also received grants to purchase reading materials include Allison Volz at Highland Elementary, and Jamie Ayres Lowe, Sarah Rasmussen and Jennifer Wyant at Imagine Great Western Academy.
Rasmussen, who is the school librarian, was granted $500 to buy new materials in order to start a Book Club.
On the technological side, teachers Carrie Apthorpe, Jennelle Baker, Taesen Romine and Carrie Shivers-Mazzei (all from Binns Elementary) were given grants to bring iPads, Kindle Fires, Focus Builders and Integration Workshops to their students. Jennifer Trimmer at John Burroughs will include eLearning stations in her classroom with her grant, as will Kathryn Gilboy and Alyson Manoukian (both from Eakin Elementary). Jenamarie DuBois, a pre-school teacher at St. Mary Magdalene, was granted $316 to purchase LeadPads for her early learners.
In the other educational category, Teresa Bombrys and Jay Scott were granted $375 and $400, respectively, for innovation projects at Hilltonia Middle School. Bombrys, who teaches sixth and eighth graders, will use the grant to teach her students scientific concepts through art, while Scott will use his grant money to purchase equipment for the student garden.
Christy Matthes (Imagine Great Western Academy), was granted $425 to purchase physical blocks to make math easier for her students to learn. Beth Hockett (St. Mary Magdalene) was granted $100 to remodel her classroom for an increase collaborative learning experience, and Eryn Sandhage (West Broad Elementary) was granted $250 to purchase new recorders for her music students.
After the ceremony, Pennell said seeing the faces of the teachers and hearing the stories from their classrooms make all of their efforts to seek donations worth the year-to-year uncertainty.
“In today’s educational world, funds are limited,” he said, “and every little bit of money in this grant program provides teachers with the opportunity to go beyond the classroom, and it provides that extra thing some kids needs to spur themselves to do better.”
He said they are grateful they were able to raise so much money this year, and they hope to reach that same amount for next year’s recipients.