NAUGATUCK — A year after awarding its first ever grants, the Naugatuck Education Foundation’s philanthropic efforts have grown exponentially.
The foundation last week awarded a total of $10,000 in grants — four times as much as last year.
“We’re very proud to be doing this work and we’re very proud of all of our teachers and our students of course who are making us so proud here in Naugatuck,” said Joan Doback, chairperson of the foundation, during a grant reception April 11 at the Naugatuck Historical Society Museum.
The foundation is a nonprofit organization that raises money to fund specific projects in the public schools that go above and beyond what is currently funded by the Board of Education.
This year one of those projects is a community garden and outdoor classroom at Andrew Avenue Elementary School.
Andrew Avenue Principal Taran Gruber said the school has a need to keep families involved and student learning going over the summer while developing science skills. He said his staff was looking for an innovative way to fulfill those needs when the idea for the community garden and outdoor classroom came to mind.
The school received a $4,555 grant to fund the project, including building a greenhouse.
Gruber said the project will bring learning to life for students while satisfying the school’s needs.
“This grant, thank you so much, I’m hoping is going to take care of all of those needs,” Gruber said.
The community garden and outdoor classroom at Andrew Avenue was one of five grant recipients this year.
City Hill Middle School teachers Meaghan Ames and Shelby Ames were awarded about $3,140 to buy equipment for students to use to upgrade and maintain the school’s online news site.
Hillside Intermediate School teacher John Forish received a $700 grant for the Epic Tales Afterschool Program, during which students develop their own stories and work together to do so.
The Early Success for School project at Western Elementary School was awarded a $1,000 grant. The project, developed by teachers Kathy Taylor, Heather Makarewicz and Kathy DeAngelis, invites incoming kindergarten students to the school for a breakfast. Taylor explained the children socialize with current students, meet with staff and are also given materials to take home to work on early literacy.
Salem Elementary School teacher Deborah Wilson received a $650 grant for the Book Talks Book Club. At the club, she said, students write a blurb about a book they’re reading post it online and create and edit videos to upload to the blog.
“The best part is they’re loving coming to school, they’re excited and they’re just loving reading,” Wilson said.
Last year, the foundation awarded a total of $2,500 in grants divided evenly to fund five projects. The 2012 grant reception marked the culmination of about three years of work to get the NEF on its feet.
Mark Kichar, secretary of the foundation, said the NEF has grown a lot over the past year. He pointed to the success of the foundation’s two biggest fundraisers — Alums and Chums and the St. Patrick’s Day 5K — for the jump in grants awarded this year.
Kichar said it’s good to see the foundation giving back to students and the reception offers the foundation the opportunity to see where the money’s going and how it’s being used.
Performers from the Western Elementary School Theater Club showed members of the foundation, and those in attendance, just how they’ve been using the grant the club was awarded last year by performing a musical scene from “The Beauty and the Beast.”
The club used the money to buy sound equipment and expand the club.
“It allowed the children to feel like they were valued members of our Naugatuck community, and the hard work that they put in every single rehearsal for months from December to February is really valued by the adults in the community,” Western School third-grade teacher Stephanie Collela said about the grant.
For more information on the foundation, visit www.naugatuckeducationfoundation.org.