Barhite: Springfield Schools Foundation helps fund dreamsWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
For the first time, Springfield High School students are competing in the National History Day competition in Washington, D.C.
It also happens to be the first time they entered the contest, thanks in part to grant money from the Springfield Schools Foundation.
In the fall, U.S. history teacher Andrew Screptock requested $1,143 to buy video cameras for his students to use for the competition.
“These opportunities might not have happened without foundation seed money,” said foundation president Cynthia Beekley at a breakfast honoring the grant winners.
Most recently, the board (of which I am a member) provided matching funds for Springfield’s parenting associations, which with the help of the board of education, will result in the purchase of 120 new laptops.
Ambitious parents and innovative teachers like Screptock are the reason the foundation wants to continue to offer grants.
Screptock said he decided to give his AP U.S. history class an extra credit assignment of competing at the National History Day competition. Next year, he will open up the project to the whole high school since there are no history-related extracurricular activities at Springfield.
“Every year they have a theme for the nation and this year’s theme was ‘Rights and Responsibilities,’” Screptock said. “You have to pick a topic that relates to the theme and there are five ways you can present it: live performance, 10-minute documentary, written paper, exhibit or you can do a website.’”
Nearly everyone in his class decided to give it a try.
“They are really competitive and want their grades to be as high as possible,” Screptock said.
On March 22, the students competed at districts. Three Springfield groups advanced to state on April 26. There, more than 80 schools competed and one group of Springfield students advanced to nationals.
Casey Wong, Lily Taplin and Kristen Kuras will present their project, “‘A Jap’s a Jap’: Denying Japanese Americans the Right to Claim Citizenship,” on June 15. The students’ exhibit on Japanese internment in World War II includes a process paper and annotated bibliography. Screptock said the students are still trying to raise money for the trip. To donate, visit http://www.gofundme.com/shsnhd.
“I was really excited they advanced to nationals,” Screptock said. “We got to see the other exhibits and we knew we were going to do well. A lot of the exhibits looked pretty good, but a lot is based on the content.”
In the past decade, Beekley said Springfield Schools Foundation has given more than $200,000 toward innovative teaching ideas. This past school year, it funded 12 grant requests, totaling about $9,609. The maximum classroom award from the foundation is $1,500, and applications are considered twice during each school year.
One of the projects was called “Busy Bodies.” The board provided $1,418.44 for the purchase of special iPad cases that bounce when dropped, along with headphones to allow students to work on projects without getting distracted.
“The grants committee looks for innovative and creative projects that will enrich and enhance student learning beyond the scope of normal required school expenditures and the required course of study,” said Judy Gorun, foundation member. “The foundation exists for the purpose of facilitating the implementation of creative ideas and talents of teachers. As board members, we know that the teachers are appreciative of our support in helping their students go beyond the typical classroom learning experience.”
Beekley said initial grants from the board created partnerships to support outdoor education, which now exists for middle-school students in the school’s grove.
“In addition to the science that students learn, the projects also foster mentorships between high school students and young elementary students, some realizing for the first time their love of science, plants, bugs and the outdoors.”
Beekley said the foundation wants to continue to award grants, but that will depend on donations.
“We haven’t spent a lot of time telling our story, nor have we asked people for money. The only reason we don’t give more is because we don’t have more funds to give.”
Superintendent Kathryn Hott said she is proud of the teachers who submitted grant applications and received money. She believes the foundation is a great asset to the district.
“The teachers went above and beyond by seeking out engaging and innovative initiatives for our students and taking the time in a very busy school year, especially this year, to write a grant application and make it happen,” Hott said.
Editor’s note: Brandi Barhite is a new board member on the Springfield Schools Foundation.
Tags: Casey Wong, citizenship, ipad, Japanese, Judy Gorun, Lily Taplin and Kristen Kuras, National History Day, Springfield High School, Springfield Schools Foundation, Superintendent Kathryn Hott, U.S. history teacher Andrew Screptock