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Grand Island Public Schools Foundation awards $17,111 for surprise classroom grants

Grand Island Public Schools Foundation was out in the GIPS district with great surprises for innovative teachers, surprising both teachers and their students when they arrived at schools Wednesday and Thursday to award 13 classroom grants.

The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation awards classroom grants on an annual basis. Classroom grants are designed to fund educational opportunities for students that are not available through the school district's general budget.

Since the program’s inception, the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation has funded 340 classroom grants totaling $313,966. Grants have been awarded to every school in the district benefiting approximately 67,442 students.

The Classroom Grant program is funded in part through the GIPS Foundation Harvest gala, Community Campaign, GIPS Staff Giving Campaign, and the Janeth Davis Memorial Fund.

For the 2023-2024 school year, 13 grants totaling $17,111 will be awarded through the classroom grant process. Grants range from $250 to $2,500. The Janeth Davis Memorial Fund generously provided $1,500 to expand the Classroom Grant program. This fund celebrates Janeth Davis' passion for educational advancement. These 13 classroom grants will benefit 4,554 students this school year.


Day One grant winners, grant amounts, and project titles were:


*A collaboration of April Dickerson, Dana Pavuk and Huy Truong, Barr Middle School, $950, “Translation Dictionaries for Students.” This project will put translation dictionaries in students’ backpacks so that they can be used in all of their classes and at home. Students are able to use translation dictionaries on state testing but it slows down their testing efforts because they do not get regular practice with the book. This prevents them from having equitable access to the tools they need to show their true abilities and understanding of classroom materials. This grant will benefit 130 students in grades 6-8.

*A collaboration of Shannon Ripp and Erika Peterson, Barr Middle School, $1,588, “Barr 6th - 8th Science Extensions W.I.N.” This project will provide students with new experiences to explore the world of forensics. Students will learn to think like an investigator and will be given the opportunity to learn the basics of analyzing a crime scene. Students will hear from community guest speakers to make real world connections. Speakers could include local police, state patrol, fire marshal and fire fighters. This grant will benefit 150 students in grades 6-8.

*A collaboration of Rachel Stefan and Bob Lienemann, Barr Middle School, $385, “Barr MS Students Attending Beauty and the Beast.” This grant will provide transportation for students to attend the preview screening of the GISH musical. Many students have socioeconomic hurdles that prevent them from attending fine arts performances. Student exposure to fine arts events create the next generation of patrons and performers. This grant will benefit 30 students in grades 7-8.

*A collaboration of Breanna Rose, Danita Stanton, Margaret McManaman, Rita Hernandez and Beth Hubl, O’Connor Learning Center, $1,500, “Literacy Expansion and Equity.” This grant will provide a Spanish copy of read aloud books to each classroom allowing all students to participate in equitable learning. The books could be read to all students in Spanish, while also providing a copy for the literacy center for students to enhance book knowledge and story-telling skills. This grant was funded by the Janeth Davis Memorial Grant and will benefit 456 students.

*A collaboration of Chandra Kosmicki and Jean Vaughn, Engleman Elementary School, $1,150, “Amping Up our Makerspace.” This grant will allow us 'amp up' our makerspace by adding resources in science, technology, engineering, art and math that will create new and unique opportunities for our students. This grant will benefit 475 student during school and at after school events.

*A collaboration of Catherine Klanecky, Jennifer Ehlers, Amy Samuelson and Emily Craw, Engleman Elementary School, $400, “Portable Planetarium.” Through a highly engaging presentation partnered with the Explorit Center, our entire group of first grade students would be able to connect their learning in reading and math to a realistic, hands on experience and enhance their understanding of our world and solar system. This grant will benefit 80 students in the 1st grade.

*A collaboration of Amy Hanna and Deb Glover, Howard Elementary School, $1,523, “Sensory Stations.” This grant will create mobile sensory stations for each wing/annex to provide all Howard students, especially those who have been exposed to trauma, chronic stress, and those with sensory needs, with the tools to regulate, calm or re-engage themselves. This will help to minimize class disruptions, improve focus and increase student engagement to maximize learning. This grant will benefit 445 students in grades Pre-K – 5.

*Colette Sorensen, Shoemaker Elementary School, $2,393, “Let Your Creativity Glow!” Let Your Creativity Glow, is a Social Emotional Creative Art (SECA) Unit for Kindergarten through Fifth Grade at both Shoemaker and Stolley Park Elementary Schools. Each grade will use a variety of bright, fluorescent, and/or glow in the dark media to create different art projects tied to our Second Step social emotional skills. Most supplies, ordered through this grant, will last five or more years which will allow for an activity each year through students' elementary career. This grant will benefit 750 students in grades K-5 at Shoemaker and Stolley Park Elementary Schools.

*A collaboration of Chandra Myers, Luke Sutherland, Codee Carr, Toni Bachand, Marisalynn Koepke, Anabel Gonzalez and Alex Tjaden, West Lawn Elementary School, $2,000,  “Sensory Path for Success.” This grant will purchase a sensory path for students. Sensory paths are designed to target sensory seeking behaviors. Research shows a reduction in sensory seeking behaviors and an increase in cognitive functioning with the use of these paths. This path will be in the hallway and a resource to any student who needs it. This grant will benefit 300 students in grades Pre-K – 5.

Day Two grant winners, grant amounts, and project titles were:


*A collaboration of Elizabeth Schott and Angela Jenness, Knickrehm Elementary School, $400, “5th Grade Visit to GISH Planetarium.” This project will enhance students understanding of the criteria of a science unit. They will partner with GISH science to create an experience for students that they would not normally be able to have. The grant will fund transportation and benefit 39 students in 5th grade.

*Rebecca Duran, Knickrehm Elementary School, $1,450, “Continuing Evidence-Based Substance Abuse Prevention.” This project will help teach students about self-esteem, decision-making, smoking, advertising, communication, assertiveness, and more! It helps to give kids knowledge and power to understand how to stand up for themselves and make choices. This grant will benefit 462 students in grades Pre-K – 5.

*Nicki Nesvara, Starr Elementary School, $1,000, “The Stallion Sharing Stable,” Starr Elementary is creating a needs closet at the school that will have supplies and other necessities available to any of our Starr families in need. Families will be able to sign up for a day to come and get supplies that are needed from the store. The closet will provide clothing, hygiene products, food items, school supplies, etc. This grant will benefit 437 students Pre-K - 5.

*Eon Lemburg, Walnut Middle School, $2,372, “Jr. Islander Power - Walnut Wildcats.” With the purchase of new weight and fitness equipment, Walnut Wildcat students will be able to continue their pursuit of a lifelong healthy lifestyle. With the addition of kettlebell weights and rowing machines, students will be able to learn and master different workouts that best suit their needs. All students for years to come in athletics, physical education, and health elective courses will have the ability to use this equipment. This grant will benefit 800 students in grades 6-8.


For more information, contact: Kari Hooker Leep, Executive Director, Grand Island Public Schools Foundation, (308) 385-5525,

© 2024 Grand Island Public Schools Foundation

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