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Foundation gives out grants

PPEF President Micky Nortman, accompanied by four Pilot Point ISD administration members, delivered the good news on April 30: Eight projects throughout the campus were awarded mini-grants that totaled up to $11,480.66.

“It’s just really gratifying to know we can help the faculty,” Nortman said. “A lot of people don’t know what the foundation does, and when we can do this, and in front of the kids, the kids get the awareness that there’s an organization out there that helps, and helps the teachers and helps, ultimately, the kids.”

Nortman added that each of this year’s mini-grant applicants were awarded one.

“We’re not setting a precedent, but all of the applicants that applied got it this year because they’ve been so constrained, and it was just a little bit more than what we had budgeted, so we were able to give them all this year,” she said. “Hopefully, next year we’ll have more participation, and it’ll keep growing.”

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Each campus had at least one grant recipient, whether that was a grade-level team or a single staff member’s project.

“They work so hard, and it’s nice to see them get rewarded like that,” Superintendent Todd Southard said.

He added that he likes that the PPEF found a way to “give everybody a little bit of love” through funding varied projects across the district.

The kindergarten teachers received a grant for $897.70 to fund a weekly art project for a full school year.

One of the projects, submitted by Amy Cooper on behalf of the sixth-grade team, will provide dictionaries for the writing classroom.

“Having that opportunity for them to have something each and every day, for every student, is incredible,” Cooper’s teammate Jennifer Lott said. “Sometimes, some of them, they’re too embarrassed to go grab one, so if it’s something that’s readily available for every student and it’s just part of their education and it’s part of their supplies, they won’t have to worry.”

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At the high school, ag teacher Sarabeth Hesteande received a grant to help her stock the new greenhouse.

“It’s going to increase our pathways we can do at the school,” Hesteande said. “So, currently, we have animal science and shop; now we’re going to add a plant science pathway with our greenhouse. That’s going to allow the kids to get a real feel for greenhouse production and a real hands-on opportunity for those kids to get to plant plants, be in the nitty gritty.”

There will also be plant sales open to the community, which Hesteande hopes to have twice a year as the program grows.

“All the proceeds will go toward the FFA Chapter and the greenhouse,” she said.

The greenhouse itself was approved in November by the PPISD board.

Dorcas Boerner received $3,084.24 for a makerspace setup in the high school library.

“It gives them one more outlet to be able to use their creativity or their scientific knowledge, to not just be in the traditional classroom space, but to come in there and go, ‘Hey, I like this. What can I do with it?’” she said. “So just that more critical thinking.”

Two grants went toward helping the middle school and the high school enrich their theater programs.

The high school got $647 to help fund “A Christmas Carol,” and the middle school received $1,255 for a set of UIL-approved gray set pieces.

“Yay!” Jennifer Tullis said with enthusiasm after being told she received the grant.

She wants to help the middle schoolers have another outlet.

“Theater gives kids who don’t have a place to go, a place to go; they have a home,” Tullis said. “Not every kid is a football kid, and not every kid is a band kid, and theater gives kids a place to go. It’s important to me that they feel valued.”

Down the hall from Tullis, first-year teacher Emily Slagle received a grant for $446.87 to get software to help students produce high-quality videos.

“I’m very thankful for all the help from Ms. [Robyn] Leslie and Ms. [Jessica] Shaw with getting this done,” she said. “This is my first year here, so I was a little nervous, a little unsure, but I just think the kids are going to have great experiences from it, and it’s just going to make everybody better.”

One middle school teacher, Nickolai Lanier, applied for a campus-wide grant for mobile learning kits, which was granted at $1,404.85.

“This has been such a strange, crazy, hard year for all of us teachers and admins, so I wrote a grant, not just for math …, I wrote it for the campus. I wanted to provide some extra learning stuff that other people could use,” Lanier said.

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Issues with the COVID-19 pandemic caused the foundation to cancel its biggest fundraiser in 2020 and 2021.

“For two years, we haven’t had a gala,” Nortman said. “We’ve been kind of invisible other than the mini-grants and the scholarships.”

Nineteen seniors applied for PPEF scholarships.

Community support has kept the nonprofit going and allowed it to fund its grants and scholarships, and the foundation is hoping to put together an appreciation event in the summer.

“We still have some corporate sponsors that continue to, even without the gala, they continue to support the organization and funding of the mini-grants,” she said.

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