PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Thousands of dollars in grant money is now available to local teachers that they may not even know about.
The Education Foundation of Palm Beach County is taking applications for its GoTeach! Classroom Grant Program that awarded more than $116,000 to educators last year alone.
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The Lake Worth Community High School band is marching to a new beat, one filled with more emotion, strength, and awareness.
"We really noticed throughout being virtual and distanced from all of our friends that our students were struggling with their mental health," said band director Tiffany Cox.
That's why Cox applied for a grant from the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County to purchase yoga mats for her nearly 100 band members.
Through stretching and breathing exercises, the students began incorporating yoga and mindfulness into their music.
"The change was almost immediate, honestly," Cox said. "We saw such improvement in how they were interacting with each other, how they were performing academically, how they were performing on their instruments."
For students like Jeilyn Sevilla, the movement completely changed her mood.
"I feel like this yoga has helped us relax. It’s helped us a lot because a lot of us are going through stuff, not only at school, but at home. And it’s been so hard," Sevilla said.
Sevilla added that she's grateful her teacher shined a bright light on the needs of students.
"I owe my mental health, being OK right now, to her," Sevilla said. "Because without having that yoga she would do with us, I wouldn’t be in the place I am now."
At Riviera Beach Preparatory and Achievement Academy, teacher Toshimi Abe-Janiga said current events motivated her grant application to help her students learn about the past.
"George Floyd's death, it caused a lot of national protests," Abe-Janiga said. "And then I was thinking, how many students know about their history?"
Abe-Janiga's grant money was used to purchase copies of "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You" by Jason Reynolds and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, t-shirts, and fund a field trip to Sugarhill Cemetery Memorial Park, a local historical cemetery.
"The whole school read this book together every single day, more than 40 days," Abe-Janiga said. "It's important for them to know who they are, and the grant money really, really helped them and the faculty, too."
"Out of all the things we do at the Education Foundation, the thing that gives us the most joy is giving money to teachers," said James Gavrilos, the CEO of the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County.
Gavrilos said any teacher can apply for the $1,000 to $5,000 grants. All they need is a unique, innovative idea to enhance their classroom.
"You cannot keep a good teacher down," Gavrilos said. "Sickness, pandemic, global shutdowns. Palm Beach County public school teachers will find a way to make it work, and I think that's what the GoTeach! grant celebrates."
Gavrilos said a panel of judges reviews each grant application. They're looking for ideas that are innovative and creative.
"The judges are not really looking for, oh, I need to buy this book for this class I'm teaching," Gavrilos said. "We've had teachers use ukuleles to teach music to kids who have special needs. We've had teachers doing plays, 'The Little Mermaid,' for English second language learners. Come up with your budget and let's get it done. Let's make it work."
LEARN ABOUT GRANT PROGRAM:
Last year, the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County awarded more than 70 grants to teachers. To learn more about the recipients and their projects, click here.
This year's applications are due by 5 p.m. on July 16. To apply for a GoTeach! Classroom Grant, click here.