Center Grove Education Foundation celebrates its 20th anniversary at Gala for the Grove
By Nicole Davis
Last year, the Center Grove Education Foundation (CGEF) gave away more than $57,000 in grants, the most money it’s given in a single year. That’s a long way from the $5,000 that it gave away in 1998, its first year.
The foundation will celebrate its 20th anniversary during the 12th Annual Gala for the Grove on April 14, 6 p.m. to midnight at The Indiana Roof Ballroom, 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, and is taking the time to recognize its history and those who have contributed to two decades of growth.
“To see where we’ve come over 20 years is amazing,” said Jennifer Rakow, executive director. “We’re really fortunate to live in a community that supports education and the foundation.”
CGEF supports students, teachers, administration and staff by fundraising and awarding grants to teachers for educational projects and professional development opportunities. Center Grove Alumni & Friends and Center Grove Scholarship Fund are included under CGEF’s umbrella.
“Budget and finance within schools is very complicated,” Rakow said. “Center Grove does a great job in terms of utilizing the resources they have and spending the money that they have, but you can only spend what you have. The great thing the education foundation gets to do is we get to help fill in those gaps. When there are not funds available, we can fund projects and resources that teachers and students may not otherwise have.”
Of that $5,000 given in CGEF’s first year, nearly half went to the Center Grove Scholarship Fund, which left $2,493.50 given away in grants. While the currently 16-member board was thrilled to have given more than $57,000 in grants in the 2016-17 school year, Rakow said, they came back in the fall with $87,000 in requests.
“We had people had to turn down requests last fall,” she said. “That was tough, but that gets our board motivated to get out there and get more money. We continuously look into new ways to bring in money, which allows us to increase the amount of money we’re able to give away, both through individual contribution and corporate sponsorship.”
That money has funded projects in a wide array of topics, including atlases for sixth graders, vocational opportunities for students, new technology for classrooms, graphing calculators for high school students and scholarships for students needing financial assistance to join the competitive choir.
Applications for the spring 2018 cycle are accepted through April 1. Rakow said they have worked hard to get information out to the teachers about what CGEF is, what it can fund and to make the application process as simple as possible.
“As long as the education foundation has been doing this, it has been a great opportunity for me as a classroom teacher to get projects funded that might not otherwise been able to happen,” said Jeff Peterson, eighth grade science teacher at Center Grove Middle School North. “There have been several situations I have applied for various things from in class technology to special projects that Center Grove Education Foundation has been able to help with. It’s been wonderful teaching in a district like Center Grove that has a strong foundation like that, that really helps out classroom teachers.”
The accomplishments of CGEF and how it has impacted the school corporation and overall community will be celebrated at Gala for the Grove. The event includes a VIP reception, cocktail hour, dinner, reception, a live give (donations), dancing and more. Seats are $100 per person or $850 for a table of 10. The VIP reception is $50 per person. For more information, visit centergrovefoundation.org.
“We hope to recognize the individuals who are there that evening who have been part of the foundation in the past,” Rakow said. “It’s a fun evening for the community to come together and celebrate the great things we’re able to do within the Center Grove Education Foundation.”
What has the Center Grove Education Foundation funded this past year?
The Center Grove Education Foundation gave away $30,000 in the fall of 2017 and $29,000 in the spring of 2017 for things from classroom supplies and special outings to professional development.
Here, learn more about a few of those projects:
Vital Video Gone Viral
Students at Maple Grove Elementary transformed into news reporters as they reported on parts of the geosphere, broadcasting their findings in front of a green screen and adding animation behind them.
Teacher Betsy Leavitt wanted her students to gain real-world experience through their class projects, so she wrote a grant proposal last fall and submitted it to CGEF, asking for $360 to purchase the technology through Do Ink. This technology would allow students to present knowledge of books they’re reading in a way that would increase engagement, the proposal stated. She was granted the money and purchased the technology, getting it set up in the classroom this year.
“I found this great idea through my professional Twitter account and thought the kids would really love it,” she said. “The first project we did, we took the earth systems, the geosphere and atmosphere, a not-so-interesting topic if you ask the kids.”
Students were taught that news rooms across the country utilize green screen technology, so they were learning a skill that some adults in the workforce must have – someone has to do the research, go behind the scenes and give a report.
“The excitement was incredible,” Leavitt said. “When do you get kids excited about earth systems? Not very often.”
Once other fifth graders heard about what Leavitt’s class did, other teachers approached her to ask to use the green space app and green screens. Leavitt is already brainstorming other projects the students could do with the technology, such as animating some of their vocabulary or to read a novel independently and share a setting of that book through animation.
“I just feel so supported, when you have this idea in your head to improve your classroom and students’ education all around, to put your idea out there and the education foundation will support you,” she said. “This wasn’t a huge amount of money, but without it, we wouldn’t have been able to produce videos this way. This makes it so much more real for the kids.”
MSN Educational Greenspace
Center Grove Middle School North had a large area behind it that needed mowing and flooded regularly. Eighth grade science teachers Jeff Peterson and Jake Burskey had a vision for a greenspace on that 3-acre parcel of land, a project they’ve been passionate about for several years.
In the fall of 2016, Peterson and Burskey made contact with CHA Consulting, an engineering and construction management firm, which expressed interest in working on the project. Northpointe Engineering & Surveying surveyed the area for free. Students conducted an initial survey of the plants and vegetation.
“They’re used to seeing ponds around their neighborhoods, the Meijer or Walmart, but they don’t always understand the purpose those retention ponds serve, as well as the amount of native species that have been pushed out of the area,” Peterson said. “When we did the initial survey, there was not a single native species in that area. It was all weeds and grasses that were not native. It’s important for students to understand what are native species and why is it important to keep them around.”
Pheasants Forever paid for 70 species of native wildflower to be planted in the area.
“We really wanted to plant that area with trees and shrubs,” Peterson said. “That’s when Center Grove Education Foundation stepped in and we were able to buy over 60 trees and shrubs that the kids planted this fall.”
On March 12, Peterson and Burskey took the eighth graders to the Innovation Center at the high school where they worked in groups to make solitary bee houses out of recycled materials. The students also made veneer birdhouses.
“We’re hoping to promote some of the pollinators and wildlife to utilize the area out back,” Burskey said. “The more can have those pollinators out there with the plants, it works in unison.”
Volunteers from New Hope Church and surrounding neighborhoods will install both bird and bee houses next month.
“We’re trying to really use this as a way to develop greater capacity for community involvement at the school, as well as continuing the maintenance of it,” Peterson said.
The greenspace is an ongoing project, with students adding to it and conducting experiments each year. Students will collect data and continue building on that data, which will give them the opportunity to do real-life research, and not simply go off statistics they read in a book.
“It’s a longterm project, a legacy project,” Burskey said. “They may come back 10 years from now and really see the fruits of their labor.”
High School Vocational Opportunity through Agape
While the special education department with Center Grove Community School Corporation has worked with Agape in year’s past, it wasn’t until it received a $5,500 grant from CGEF in the spring of 2017 that they were able to add a program which offers vocational and leadership skills to students.
Agape is a nonprofit that uses horses to work with individuals with special needs, at-risk youth and other groups of people.
“The purpose that it’s serving for us, as our students come down on a weekly basis for this past year, we were able to work with Agape to develop lesson plans that helped from job skills to development of character and leadership skills to be able to better prepare them for the transition of high school going into the workforce,” said Alli Chance, director of special education.
The Agape grant was made possible by the Sherrie Buchanan Memorial Fund.
The 12 students participating in the program visit Bradford Woods in Martinsville once a week for 32-weeks. There, they receive a combination of classroom instruction inside of the building and then the ability to apply those skills learned in the class by working with horses in the horse barn. Students learn to build a relationship with the horse, how to feel confident in what they are doing, are given some responsibilities in caring for the horse, then have to give a final presentation.
Chance said their teachers expressed how they’ve seen growth in the students, in their confidence and how they’re able to have better interactions with people and take on more responsibility in the jobs they hold outside of the high school.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to receive this grant money,” Chance said. “I am a big supporter of Agape and the opportunities that they are able to provide, and the community partnership that they are able to build with schools. I’m thankful for the grant money to allow us to continue that partnership with them, to expand on the opportunities that we provide with students.”