Grants give education a boost

Hillside Intermediate School sixth-grader Jordan Chouinard, left, explains how Cubelets, modular robotic blocks, work as Hillside instructional coach Alyce Misuraca looks on April 7 during the Naugatuck Education Foundation’s grant awards ceremony at Naugatuck High School. Hillside received a $1,812 grant to start a T.E.C.H. Club at the school that will feature the Cubelets. –LUKE MARSHALL

Hillside Intermediate School sixth-grader Jordan Chouinard, left, explains how Cubelets, modular robotic blocks, work as Hillside instructional coach Alyce Misuraca looks on April 7 during the Naugatuck Education Foundation’s grant awards ceremony at Naugatuck High School. Hillside received a $1,812 grant to start a T.E.C.H. Club at the school that will feature the Cubelets. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Robotic blocks, a news show, a science team, and peer-reviewed writing are all coming to Naugatuck schools with help from the Naugatuck Education Foundation.

The Naugatuck Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization that raises money to fund programs in the borough’s public schools that aren’t included in the annual education budget. This year, the foundation awarded a total of $15,481 in grants to fund four projects.

“For all of us that work here at the Naugatuck Education Foundation today is our Super Bowl, our World Series, and our Final Four day all mixed up into one day. This is the day where we get to see the fruits of our efforts,” said NEF President Andrew Bottinick during a ceremony April 7 to present the grants.

Hillside Intermediate School instructional coach Alyce Misuraca received a $1,812 grant, of which the Naugatuck Rotary Club donated $1,000, to start a T.E.C.H. Club, which stands for Technology, Engaging, Curiosity and Hands On building. The club will give students the opportunity to interact with technology through robotics, game design and engineering.

Part of the money will be used to buy Cubelets, modular robotic blocks that can be stacked together to perform different tasks. Sixth-grader Jordan Chouinard was the catalyst behind bringing Cubelets to Hillside.

Chouinard presented school officials with an idea of purchasing them for the entire student body. School leaders were impressed and worked with him to apply for the grant.

“When they came in the mail, it was like Christmas morning,” said Chouinard, who accepted the grant at the ceremony.

A $2,779 grant will be used to start a competitive academic science team called “Serious About Science” at Naugatuck High School. The team, which is led by Naugatuck High School science teachers Beth Lancaster and Marc Pardee, will give students a chance to learn about science, conduct experiments, and participate in the Connecticut Science Olympiad competition.

City Hill Middle School received two grants, one to produce a live morning news show and the other for a student writing center.

The Live Morning News Show, which is headed by instructional aide Joseph Savarese and technology education teacher Allison Stephens, was awarded a grant for $9,995. According to Bottinick, this is the largest grant the NEF has award a single program.

The news show will feature students producing, filming, and airing a news show about the school and community. The show will be broadcast throughout the school during the morning announcements.

Savarese said the show will help create a community within the school.

Naugatuck High School science teacher Marc Pardee talks about the ‘Serious About Science’ team April 7 during the Naugatuck Education Foundation’s grant awards ceremony at Naugatuck High.–LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck High School science teacher Marc Pardee talks about the ‘Serious About Science’ team April 7 during the Naugatuck Education Foundation’s grant awards ceremony at Naugatuck High.–LUKE MARSHALL

The Student Writing Center, which will be led by language arts teacher Laura Litewka, was awarded a grant for $894. The writing center will be run by students and will serve to help other students with both academic and personal writings, Litewka said.

Since its inception in 2012, the NEF has given out more than $60,000 for a variety of programs in all 10 borough public schools.

“[The NEF] enables us to do things we can’t do with the local budget. It enables us to provide enrichment activities for the kids. It’s just a really great effort,” Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said.

When choosing which projects to fund, Bottinick said the NEF looks for ones that will benefit the most students.

“We are looking for something, like any other organization, that gives us more bang for our buck. We look at what it is going to cost versus what is the benefit to the community. We like to see something like that. If we are going to invest our money, what can we get the most out of and the kids will benefit the most from which ones,” Bottinick said.

For the first time, the NEF has also set money aside to begin an endowment program to ensure the foundation can continue to fund school programs for many years to come, Bottinick said.

“Every year we tap on our sponsors and they’ve been very good to us. But it is tiring and these sponsors get hit up five times a day and we try to limit that. We are hoping that at some time, in the not too distant future, we will be in a place to self-fund. So that’s very exciting,” Bottinick said.

The Republican-American contributed to this article.