Rangers give back

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By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Messenger photos by Linda Dillman
Hamilton Elementary teacher Cara Downerd, left, was one of four district teachers awarded a $250 classroom grant from the local alumni association. Hamilton Alumni Association Treasurer Karen Cook, right, presented a check to Downerd.

Time and distance do not stop Hamilton Township High School graduates from giving back and the latest round of Alumni Association donations are benefitting students of all ages throughout the district.

On Jan. 13, Hamilton Township High School Alumni Association treasurer, Karen Cook, made the rounds of three buildings—the elementary, intermediate and middle school—to distribute $250 Vince Payne Classroom Grant checks to a teacher in each building.

The grants, much like the association’s Elmo Kallner Scholarship Award and the George Cole Library Fund projects, are entirely funded by alumni donations.

“Our membership is most generous and donate to our different funds each year,” said Cook. “HTHS graduates believe in giving back because they want to help students like they were helped when they were in school.”

Hamilton Intermediate teacher Brittany Smith’s Purple Star shirt design project received support in the form of a $250 classroom grant from Hamilton Alumni Association Treasurer Karen Cook

Late last year teachers were invited to submit a proposal for the grants for funding of a special project or classroom need. In the past, award-winning projects included a video camera, veteran ceremony, special seating, and specialized camera supplies.

“We want to honor at least one teacher in each of the buildings by backing them as best as we can,” said Cook, who was a music teacher and said she was well aware of the money instructors spend out their own pocket on their classrooms. “We named this grant in memory of former public relations director Vince Payne who sadly passed away last year. Vince was always there to help alumni, teachers, and kids in any way he could. This grant program honors him in honoring teachers and students.”

A middle school “Comfort Closet” project spearheaded by teachers Jenna Berry, center, and Cole Freshkorn, right, received a $250 classroom grant from Hamilton Alumni Association Treasurer Karen Cook, left.

At the elementary school, kindergarten teacher Cara Downerd was selected for her sensory path project, which will be installed in a hallway later this year. The path is a series of movements identified on the floor and wall than can be used by students to re-focus, take a break, or work off excess energy while developing gross motor skills.

“It can be used by an individual student, a group of students, or the whole class,” said Downerd. “It can be especially helpful for students who experience frustration, anger or other sensory overloads. Academics can also be incorporated with the sensory path.”

Intermediate English Language Arts fifth grade teacher Brittany Smith is using her grant to create a t-shirt design and sale for an upcoming Purple Star project in support of military families.

“The proceeds from the sale will be used in part to begin financing a military memorial in front of the administration building,” said Smith. “The district recently established a Purple Star Committee that represents every building in the district. Purple Star schools acknowledge and support students and families connected to our nation’s military.”

Seventh grade middle school teachers Cole Freshkorn and Jenna Berry are collaborating on turning a storage cabinet into a ‘comfort closet’ consisting of snacks and hygiene supplies for students to take when they are in need.

“Many of our students come to us every day without various resources that they need to be successful,” said Freshkorn. “With our care closet idea, students will have the opportunity to take what they need such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, body wash, female hygiene products, as well as various snacks/food they might not have access to at home.”

At the high school, science teacher and Army combat veteran Corey O’Brien wants to purchase military-related items such as branch insignias for the school’s spring Military Signing Event, flags, and a specialized military themed jersey to honor two Hamilton graduates killed in action.

O’Brien is also the school’s Purple Star liaison and was deployed to Kuwait in 2003 and Iraq in 2004-05.

“We held our first Military Signing Event last spring and plan on making it a yearly tradition to show how proud we are of our students who are willing to make such a selfless sacrifice in service to our nation,” said O’Brien. “We want to give our future military members the same type of recognition as we do our student athletes that commit to play a sport in college.”

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