Grants breathe life into ideas 

From left, Naugatuck Education Foundation Chairman Andrew Bottinick, NEF Grants Committee Chair Joan Doback, Hop Brook Elementary School guidance counselor Meagan Rolla, Hop Brook third-grade teacher Kimberly Andreoli and NEF member Fred Scheithe pose for a photo during the foundation’s grant reception April 6 at Naugatuck High School. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — For the past six years, the Naugatuck Education Foundation has turned programs from dreams into reality. This year was no different.

The foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides grants for education programs in borough public schools that aren’t funded through the annual school budget. The foundation awarded grants to fund two programs during a reception last week.

“Today is like our Super Bowl or Final Four. This is why we put in a countless number of hours, to see the kids and teachers who have put so much extra time into the everyday curriculum,” Naugatuck Education Foundation Chairman Andrew Bottinick said.

Hop Brook Elementary School third-grade teacher Kimberly Andreoli and guidance counselor Meagan Rolla received $2,256 for their program “Don’t Flip Your Lid.”

The program creates “brain break centers” in each of classroom where students can go if they are feeling frustrated, Andreoli said.

Rolla said the centers help children practice mindfulness, which is “a scientifically-researched strategy that helps people pay attention to the present moment and bring their attention back to it through breathing and other strategies.”

Andreoli and Rolla created a brain break center in Andreoli’s classroom last year. Andreoli said it has had a positive impact on students.

“In the beginning a lot of them were prompted to go. But the more we have been learning about the process the more they are advocating for themselves to go there and take a break,” Andreoli said.

The money will be used to buy items to build the centers and materials on mindfulness, Andreoli said.

City Hill Middle School special education teacher Katrina Buyers received $1,316 for the “Peer Partners Project.” The project also received $1,000 from the Naugatuck Rotary Club.

The program is aimed at teaming mainstream students with special education students that may not have a lot of chances for social interactions, Buyers said.

Buyers said the money is going to be used over the year for three different projects. Students will shop for groceries and cook a meal together, and grow vegetables from seeds together and ultimately plant them in a plot in the Naugatuck Community Garden. The money will also be used to buy a video game system so students can play cooperatively together rather than competitively, she said.

Over the years, the foundation has funded a variety of programs.

In 2014, Lt. Col. Valerie Lofland of the Naugatuck High School JROTC program received $2,280 to purchase a flight simulator program.

From left, Naugatuck Education Foundation Chairman Andrew Bottinick, NEF Grants Committee Chair Joan Doback, City Hill Middle School special education teacher Katrina Buyers and NEF member Lisa Oliveira are pictured during the foundation’s grant reception April 6 at Naugatuck High School. –LUKE MARSHALL

“It has encouraged many students to go into aviation or an aero-space science career,” Lofland said. “It has been a great gift for us because it has expanded their knowledge of what I teach. I want to thank the NEF again.”

In 2016, the Naugatuck High competitive academic science team, “Serious About Science,” received a $2,779 grant.

Naugatuck High sophomore Sarah Rawding and junior Dylan Triscritti, both members of the team, spoke on the positive impact the grant has had on the team.

“We enjoyed this so much and none of it would be possible without our NEF grant,” Rawding said.

Triscritti said the team participates in three competitions a year and has placed in the top 10 in some categories at the competitions.

“Without the NEF grant we wouldn’t have been able to order parts we needed for the events and we wouldn’t have been able to compete with the other teams,” Triscritti said.

Joan Doback, who chairs the foundation’s grants committee, said the foundation looks forward to continuing to distribute grants. However, in order to do that, it needs teachers and staff to apply, she said.

“We need the teachers to apply for the grants to get more of these projects going. So we implore you to spread the word to your teachers during teacher meetings and principal meetings. We look forward to another great year,” Doback said.