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WISD Education Foundation awards $125,373 in innovative grants

WACO, Texas – The Waco ISD Education Foundation and its SurPRIZE Patrol virtually visited 11 Waco ISD campuses Thursday to surprise 31 teachers with the news that their grant applications were approved for funding for the 2020-2021 school year. This year, the foundation is awarding $125,373 back to the district, bringing the total funded to more than $1.8 million over the past decade and a half. The group normally makes surprise visits to teachers’ classrooms with balloons and festivities, but with schools closed, the announcements transitioned to a virtual announcement and celebration.

District teachers and staff had the opportunity to apply for funding through the foundation’s Innovative Grants program beginning this past fall. That program annually awards approximately $100,000 in grant funding in the four focus areas of early childhood development, enhanced programming for advanced students, extended education for staff, and emphasis on student performance.

This year’s grant projects span a wide array of topics and areas from health sciences, coding and special effects makeup to gardening, performing and visual arts and engaged learning for special populations.

Taylor Bledsoe, chairman of the Waco ISD Education Foundation Board of Directors and vice president of Sturdisteel, participated in the virtual surprise announcements, including one for a grant to Lake Air Montessori Magnet School named in Sturdisteel’s honor.

“Each year, I’m amazed by the creativity and innovation shown through these grant proposals, but this year, we heard from the committee that these were some of the best,” Bledsoe stated. “Thanks to outstanding support from our community sponsors, the foundation is able to award more than $125,000 in grants that will benefit teachers and students across the district and provide teachers with unique opportunities to teach their students in creative and exciting ways. As a member of the local business community and an alumnus of Waco ISD, that’s a pretty exciting thing to be a part of.”

Dr. Susan Kincannon, Waco ISD’s superintendent, also participated in the virtual announcements. As Named Grant Sponsors, a grant at Hillcrest Professional Development School was named in honor of Kincannon and her husband, Keith.

“Our education foundation brings the community together to make a difference for our students,” Kincannon said. “These grants enrich the classroom experience for our students and allow teachers to engage with the curriculum in innovative ways. These grants are proof that our community is invested in our schools and their students’ success. Even during such difficult and uncertain times, our teachers and administrators across the district have put so much time and thought into these grant proposals, and I’m excited to see these projects implemented in our classrooms.”

In addition to district staff, foundation board members and committee members, today’s SurPRIZE Patrol also included representatives from some of the 17 local businesses and individuals that had a grant named in their honor based on their level of support of the organization and its 14th Annual H-E-B Celebrity Cookoff. Although the event scheduled for March 27 had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most sponsors maintained their committed financial support of the organization and its programs.

Letters of intent and full applications are screened and scored by a committee comprised of members of the foundation’s board of directors and community volunteers. Applications are scored on various categories including rationale, goals, plan of operation, communication and long-term implications.

Below is a list of the 31 grants, including the grant writer’s name(s) and campus, title of the project, amount funded and named sponsor/honoree, if applicable.

Sherry Bagby
Mountainview Elementary
“Practice Makes Perfect: Books for All”   
Named in honor of: Sally and Johnny Bledsoe

Sherry Bagby
Mountainview Elementary
“Teaching the Teacher”

Jessica Bancale
Crestview Elementary
“You CAN Touch This”         
Named in honor of: H&B Packing

Will Burney
Waco High    
“Lights! Camera! Student!”

Leslie Cannon
ATLAS Academy
“Computing Across the Curriculum”        

Alison Davis
Lake Air Montessori Magnet
“Play is the Work of the Child”
Named in honor of: Allen Samuels Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram 

Alison Davis
Lake Air Montessori Magnet
“To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow”  

Shawn Dewett
Waco High
“Summer Reading and Directed Student Choice”

Renee Ebeling
University High
“Out of the Classroom Into the Art”         
Named in honor of: JRBT     

Amanda Flentge
Hillcrest Professional Development School
“Design Thinking & 3D Printing”   
Named in honor of: Keith and Susan Kincannon

Tori Garcia and Cristina De La Pena
Cedar Ridge Elementary
“Sea It to Believe It!”          

Hope Gereghty
Waco High
“3D Art Expansion”  
Named in honor of: Cargill 

Carolyn Green and Nikitha Hartfield
West Avenue Elementary
“We’re Outta Here: The Outdoor School”
Named in honor of: H-E-B   

Carolyn Green and Nikitha Hartfield
West Avenue Elementary
“Eagles CSI: Collaborative Student Interaction”  
Named in honor of: Italian Granite 

Jefferson Gunn
University High
“Backyard Brains Discovers the Body’s Electricity”        
Named in honor of: Ascension Providence 

Laurie Beth Harris and Lisa Hughes
Tennyson Middle
“Culture Shock to Cozy”     

Lindsey Helton
Alta Vista Elementary
“World Changers Challenge”          
Named in honor of: Central National Bank 

Peter Holmstrom
Alta Vista Elementary
“Give Me a Clue!”

Kimberly Huffman and Kendall Wilson
Cedar Ridge Elementary
“Experimenting with Math!”

Star Islas and Angela Low
Cedar Ridge Elementary
“Future Scientists: Go Into the Process”  

Gwen James
Alta Vista Elementary
“Class Curriculum Supplies”

Erin Lange
Cedar Ridge Elementary
“Oh, the Places We’ll Go”
Named in honor of: GoldStar Transit 

Matthew McMahon
Crestview Elementary
“Motown, in Touch with Tomorrow”       
Named in honor of: Lowe’s of Waco 

Erica Muller and Jennifer Findley
Tennyson Middle
“Quiz Bowl Startup”

Ruzica Norwood
Lake Air Montessori Magnet
“SFX Makeup: Making Hollywood Happen”        

Megan Perez and Alison Davis
Lake Air Montessori Magnet
“We Are the World”
Named in honor of: Waco Motorsports 

Rosa Pryor and Irene Barrantes
Kendrick Elementary
“Learning with Imagination”          
Named in honor of: Stifel 

Lauren Reasor, Myriam Roberson, Yolanda Anzures and Frencis Mendoza-Villeda
Cedar Ridge Elementary
“Light Years in Learning”
Named in honor of: Concho Supply, Inc. (PDW) 

Jo Spark
Alta Vista Elementary
“I Used to Think… Now I Think… - Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors”
Named in honor of: Educators Credit Union 

Nicky Stokes
Lake Air Montessori Magnet
“Clay-Mazing Creations”

Bethany Wharton
Lake Air Montessori Magnet
“Our First Musical Debut! Starring You!”
Named in honor of: Sturdisteel