Bellingham Education Foundation Presents a “Night of Impact”May 31, 2018 06:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson
This year’s recipients (L-R): Veronica Higgins, Nikki Houston, Leslie Paterson, Amy Youkilis, George Haddad, Jackie Antonellis, Ashley Nichol, Katie Mason, Sarah Houle. Seated: Lisa Cavossa and Debra Conroy
The Bellingham Educational Foundation (BEF) has been around since 2012, but not everyone is familiar with the importance of the work they do through a number of grants awarded to Bellingham teachers and support staff. That’s why on May 10, at the Coachmen’s Lodge, the board decided to present a “Night of Impact” to highlight grant recipients.
In its fourth year, the Night of Impact is an opportunity for the BEF to tell its story in a formal setting. “A lot of our events are opportunities to fundraise,” explained event chair Kim Cohen, “which are fun events and a great way to tap into the community, but what we were realizing was that so many people in our community with children in the school system just didn’t know enough about what the BEF does and what our impact is.” By creating this event, they hoped to celebrate those achievements.
The BEF’s goal was to raise funds to help support the areas of focus and innovation that teachers have that are outside the district budget, and to date the BEF has awarded more than $174,000 in grants. Examples of past grants include donations to the Robotics Club and to a Chromebook pilot program that was so successful that the school adopted it into the technology budget going forward.
According to their mission statement, this independent, community-based, non-profit organization is dedicated to enriching, enhancing, and supporting education throughout the Bellingham School System. With the help of its volunteers, the community, and business alliances, they raise funds for innovative and sustainable projects that motivate students to be lifelong learners, projects that otherwise would not be possible with existing budgets. Their goal, through collaboration with educators, parents, and community-based resources, is to bridge the gap between adequate and excellent in order to invest in the full potential of all students.
They do this by awarding a series of grants, and this year they were able to hand out over $41,000, the largest amount ever, due in large part to a $50,000 donation from Middlesex Savings Bank that will be spread out over two years.
“What I love about the Night of Impact,” Cohen continued, “is that we have the opportunity to bring together elected officials, school committee members, our school staff, and the teachers and support staff who wrote the applications for the grants we awarded and really celebrate them and the innovation and the exciting opportunities that are happening that I think so many of our parents and residents don’t know about; and I think it’s a great way to spotlight the wonderful above-and-beyond staff that we have and that the leadership team created in our district.”
This year’s grant recipients include:
- Leslie Paterson, Amy Youkilis, Nikki Houston, and Lisa Cavossa for their Imagination Playground, a set of larger-than-life-size building blocks that will be shared between South & Stall Brook elementary schools.
- Kathryn Mason for her Lead the Way Engineering Program, the spearhead for a three-year implementation plan that will create an engineering program for our high school students.
- George Haddad for his Bellingham High School Robotics Club, the third year that BEF has supported this group; this year the grant will support the Robotics Club in the First Tech Challenge and the SeaPerch Competition, an underwater robotics program.
- Debra Conroy for her The Maker Movement STEAMS into BHS, BMS, & KMA. Grant funding awarded last year to South Elementary and Stall Brook Elementary will now be incorporated into BHS, BMS, & KMA to inspire students to be innovative and creative when it comes to STEM/STEAM (science and technology)-based activities, experiments and innovation.
- Jacqueline Antonellis for third-grade Flexible Seating at Stall Brook Elementary. Flexible seating was piloted last year at BMS thanks to BEF funding and will now be implemented in the third-grade classroom at Stall Brook.
- Veronica Higgins for Flexible Seating to Better Serve a Therapeutic Milieu (KMA). Similar to the BMS and Stall Brook grants, this grant will also fund seating that allows for the students to be comfortable and provides an inviting classroom that inspires rich learning.
- Sarah Houle for Flexible Seating Options at BHS for the benefit of our social studies classes in grades 8-12.