Vigo Ed Foundation awards $26K in grants to 11 schools

Tribune-Star/Sue LoughlinMeet Tucker: Davis Park Elementary counselor Katrina Doty and therapy dog Tucker attended Friday’s Vigo County Education Foundation Business and Bagels program. The school is benefiting from a foundation school-wide grant.

The Vigo County Education Foundation awarded school-wide grants totaling more than $26,000 to 11 schools Friday during a Business and Bagels session at Sarah Scott Middle School.

Katrina Doty, counselor at Davis Park Elementary, told those attending how much the grants mean.

“It’s no secret these are very difficult times in education. Your support … during a time when the court of public opinion is a pretty tricky thing right now — means the world. Your generosity allows us to do what we love, which is teaching, caring for and inspiring kids,” Doty said.

She brought therapy dog Tucker with her as she talked about what Davis Park is doing with its school-wide funds. “Tucker is usually the real star” when they’re together in public, she quipped.

The school-wide grants could potentially impact more than 5,100 students, or about 38% of the VCSC student population, said Jane Nichols, foundation executive director.

The funds will help support STEM activities, after-school programs and incentives to encourage good attendance or behavior. The programs aim to meet the needs of children and “get them to school, get them to want to be in school, helping them academically and emotionally and really trying to enrich the child’s entire school experience,” Nichols said.

Because of the pandemic, it was the first in-person session of Business and Bagels in about two years. “It’s so exciting to be here in person and have the energy and the connection,” Nichols said. Those attending included donors, business representatives, principals, teachers, administrators and other nonprofit representatives.

School-wide grants are awards generally between $1,000 and $3,000 given for programs which impact students throughout the entire school.

At Davis Park, the school’s FUNdamental grant will be used for many things, including programs to address the impact of COVID. The school has brought back clubs for art, music and coding “to address their mental health,” Doty said. With Chromebooks, students can participate even if they must be at home, such as during quarantine.

“We can Google Meet them during the club,” she said.

Part of the grant is also used to help motivate students for ILEARN and IREAD testing.

The school also has a “Reading to Tucker” program, and grant funds will be used to purchase stickers that say, “I read to Tucker today,” or “Reading is golden with a doodle.”

In addition, funds will support the school’s Purple at the Park program, which rewards students for being safe, responsible and respectful, Doty said.

At Franklin Elementary, the grant “will help us keep our book vending machine filled with brand new books,” said Principal Tina Horrall. Children receive tokens for everything from grades to improved behavior and good attendance.

“They are thrilled to have a new book,” she said.

At Meadows Elementary, the grant will be used for after-school enrichment that includes reading and writing clubs, a Purdue extension STEM club and cooking clubs.

At Terre Town Elementary, the grant is being used for morning “STEM-ulation” kits, which enable children to work with simple levers, gears or circuits.

They do the activities during breakfast. “It encourages students to want to come to school, play with friends and learn and explore,” said Sharon Manley, Terre Town assistant principal. “It wakes their brains up as they explore these topics and scientific approaches.”

At Farrington Grove, funds will be used to improve social skills, which suffered during disruptions caused by COVID, said Principal Jennifer Norris. “They don’t remember how to be together in a positive and productive way,” she said. “We encourage students to become the best version of themselves.”

The school is encouraging students to be safe, respectful and responsible, and one way is to reward them with “Tiger” tickets that can be used for items in a school store or for such experiences as extra recess, pizza with the dean and cookies with the counselor.

During the Friday’s event, the foundation honored longstanding supporters, SMC Inc. and the Hollie and Anna Oakley Foundation.

Business and Bagels was sponsored by Engage Mentoring: Project Lead for Women and Alex Allen-Hodge and Ron Hodge.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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