Education foundation announces first wave of grant recipients
Foundation President Sally Schott said $25,000 was budgeted for grants this year, and just under $10,000 of that money was awarded in the latest round. The grants are funded primarily through a fundraiser that takes place every other year, as well as an appeal in its annual newsletter.
This year the foundation received funds from two additional sources: penguin plungers and the state legislature. Organizers of the Jamestown 1st Day Plunge named the foundation one of the beneficiaries of the ever-popular New Year’s Day event. Also, state Rep. Deb Ruggiero, who lives in town, presented Schott with a legislative grant to help fund the programs.
This year for the first time the foundation set a budget for the grants, and a firm deadline for applications, which was May 15. Prospective applicants were notified about the process through notices in the Jamestown Press and at the local schools. Award winners were supposed to be notified by June 15, but as it turned out, the foundation was able to get the review process finished earlier.
Schott said the foundation looks for programs that are not one-offs. She prefers to fund programs that can continue to fund themselves following the first year.
“We look for creativity and innovation in educational programming,” she said. “We look for how many students the program can impact. We felt that all of these programs would have a strong return in that regard.”
This year Schott said the foundation chose to fund kick-starter programs. She said the JEF is different from educational foundations in other communities because it will fund a project from anyone, as long as it benefits Jamestown’s children.
“We were really pleased with the diversity of the requests,” she said.
In terms of dollar amount, the highest award went to Julie Kallfelz and the eighth-grade class at Lawn Avenue School to implement a traditional tribal council ring on the school grounds. The project is part of a larger land-use program for the Jamestown schools and nearby neighborhoods. The JEF gave $3,000 to the cause.
“The goal of the best land-use plan is to improve walking access, biking access and recreational opportunities all around the school,” Kallfelz said.
Kallfelz is co-chair of Rolling Agenda, a biking advocacy group in Jamestown, as well as the mother of an eighth-grader. She says the tribal council ring was chosen in part for symbolic reasons since the neighborhood surrounding the school has historic significance to tribal people. The ring is also important to the school community because students can meet there to discuss important issues, she said.
The tradition in Jamestown calls for the eighth-grade class to give a gift to the community following graduation. The tribal council ring will be the gift from this year’s class. Funds are still being raised by the kids to create signage that will accompany the installation. The stones are in place now and a dedication will take place during graduation week.
“This project wouldn’t have happened without the JEF grant,” Kallfelz said. “It’s a great way to recognize that there is an educational element of this project. The students who are donating the ring have done quite a bit of research on the history of this tribal ring.”
Junior Achievement of Rhode Island received a grant of $2,625 to fund an education program at Melrose Avenue School. It is the organization’s first entree into the school. According to Jeff Cartee, director of development, the grant will support three programs at the elementary school. The group is looking for additional funding to expand the programs.
“The programs focus on areas of workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy,” he said. “All of the programs have a handson component to them.”
Cartee said the funding is particularly important because the organization has never before offered programs in Jamestown. Without the grant, Junior Achievement of Rhode Island could not have expanded into Jamestown for the upcoming academic year.
Cartee said he hopes the grant will be a catalyst to plant a seed so his organization can continue to move forward on the island.
The Conanicut Island Raptor Project received a grant of $1,500 to upgrade the hardware and software for the popular osprey cam. Part of the money will be used to fund a presentation at Lawn Avenue School by Dr. Rob Bierregaard, an osprey expert and research professor at the University of North Carolina.
According to Chris Powell, who heads the raptor project, the initial startup money for the project came from the foundation. Seven years later, when the equipment needed upgrading, Powell turned to the group again. All of the new equipment is in place except for the camera. It has been delayed due to weather and nesting baby birds. In the meantime, Powell said the old camera is currently live streaming the osprey family online at ConanicutRaptors.com.
“The JEF has been a good source of funding for us,” Powell said. “They’ve been very receptive to everything we’ve done. They allowed us to do something that we thought about eight years ago.”
Additional grants included $2,200 awarded to Jamestown teachers Phil Capaldi, Jane Mitchell and Sandra Reynolds for a three-season greenhouse erected on school grounds, and $620 to teacher Amy Simoes to set up vermiposting bins in each fourthgrade classroom.
The bins will contain red wriggler worms that recycle food scraps and produce castings. The castings are then used as fertilizer or soil enhancer. Students will learn about recycling food scraps in a safe and environmentally friendly way, she says. They will also learn the role that decomposers play in the environment.
In addition to the annual enrichment grants, the foundation offers “mini-grants” during the course of the year. Typically they are for smaller projects that cost less than $1,000. For example, during the past school year, a mini-grant was given to school librarian Lisa Casey to fund author visits. The three authors who participated were Lucinda Landon, Ann Hood and local poet Teresa Murray.
The other mini-grant was given to partially fund the Girl Power Art Camp that takes places at the town library. The foundation also funded an after-school chess program, a Lawn Avenue School drama club, and a workshop taught by string instrumentalist Emily Anthony.
The foundation recently received a donation from the Acushnet Company. Local golf pro Barry Westfall made the recommendation. The company gave $1,500 to fund an instructional golf program that is currently in planning stages.