Warren County Educational Endowment Awards $65,225 to Warren County Public Schools

The Warren County Educational Endowment awarded eighteen (18) grants for 2022 totaling $65,225 to the Warren County Public Schools system.

Endowment President George Karnes stated, “The Warren County Educational Endowment was formed in 1996 to provide seed money for creative learning ideas brought forth by Warren County teachers and staff. Since our inception, we have awarded 196 grants totaling $693,770.97 and are pleased to continue to support Warren County Public Schools for the 2022-2023 school year with grant awards totaling $65,225.”

According to School Superintendent Dr. Chris Ballenger, “The Warren County Educational Endowment continues to be a great partner of Warren County Public Schools. Without this partnership, many programs and opportunities for our students may not be possible. The funding provided by the Endowment enables our school system to create exciting learning opportunities, develops strong community-based programs, and creates a supportive learning environment. I am excited to partner with such a dedicated group that has the vision and the desire to see our schools succeed. The Endowment’s direct impact on our division is immeasurable. We are thankful for their support.”  

The following grant programs/projects were approved for funding in 2022:

  • Electric Go-Kart Design and Build Project – Russell Sears/BRTC – $3,600 – The project goal is to give the students in various disciplines at Blue Ridge Technical Center a challenge in designing, building, and evaluating the performance of an electrical go‐kart to be raced against various schools in the region. Blue Ridge Technical Center engineering students will design an electrical go‐kart with the input from the teachers in the technical center. The design will then be passed to the welding students who will have to use the provided blueprints to form and weld the frame. The automotive students will add the mechanical features, and the electricity students will get additional exposure as they wire the 48V electrical system. The engineering students will act as the project managers and serve as the collaborators for this real world, multi‐disciplined challenge.
  • Hands-On Learning through Composting and Raised Beds – Katharine Lee Meadows/WCHS – $2,500 – The goal of this program is to create an outdoor learning lab for all WCHS students, which will provide hands‐on learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math through construction and implementation of a composting system and raised garden beds, extending educational opportunities for high schoolers to share with the community and lower grade levels. The Applied Agriculture classes & FFA members will collaborate with Environmental Science classes to build compost bins, compost collection containers, and raised beds for the initial phase of the project. Once those items are constructed, students will collect compost from lunches and the grounds for breakdown in the bins and create signage explaining the decomposition processes used. In the second phase, the organic material produced will be added as soil amendment to the raised beds, which will be planted by students with a variety of crops for eventual harvest. Students involved in this phase will learn to calculate nutrient, space, and water requirements for the crops and plan for planting, amendment, and maintenance through the growing season.
  • Wobble to Learn – Refa Blakely/RJES – $1,000 – The goal of this project is to place wobble stools for flexible seating into my Kindergarten Classroom to help students to focus and be able to learn in the classroom environment. The project will place wobble stools at each student’s seat to allow them to move, while paying attention to their lessons. By having enough seats for the entire class, it will not pinpoint out students that need these seating arrangements, and all children will be able to benefit from them.
  • Recycling Carts – Jen Davis/WCMS – $600 – In 2021, the Endowment provided a grant to the newly created Recycling Club at Warren County Middle School, allowing them to purchase two carts. They started with a recycling club of 7 members, one cart (that was broken), and only recycled paper from classrooms. As students became accustomed to recycling, interest grew, and club membership has expanded 25 members with a waitlist. With the two carts purchased through last year’s grant, WCMS recycles paper, cardboard, and plastic. The WCMS Cafeteria has its own cart and recycles cardboard boxes (which easily adds up to 50‐ 70 boxes a week). This program will allow the club to purchase two more carts to make recycling all of these items less time-consuming.
  • Bringing Life to Brighten our School – Kara Lewallen/Diversified Minds – $2,000 – The goal of this program is to get Diversified Minds/Brighter Futures’ indoor and outdoor gardening spaces thriving again. Indoors, they have two of the original tower gardens the County purchased years back. They are in need of supplies to get them running again. The ballasts on the fluorescent lighting systems are dying, and they do not have the net pots or rockwool needed to run the machines. The funds will go towards the purchasing of supplies for the indoor tower gardens, the outdoor garden, and greenhouse supply needs.
  • Personality and Power – Michael Williams/EWM – $6,250 – The goal of this program is to assist underserved 4th and 5th Grade students throughout the 2022‐23 School Year to understand their strengths and weaknesses, and to promote trust among these students with one another, while tracking their success as they progress throughout the school year and onto the next grade level. The ethos behind this program is to target/help 4th and 5th grade students, specifically at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, in the areas of growth, maturity and leadership, while identifying their personality strengths and weaknesses. This targeted group (approximately 50 students) will engage in weekly activities to enhance and maximize their maturity, growth, and ability to empathize with others, and the process will better help provide a rubric for each student to see where they can positively affect their own lives as they progress through school and life.
  • Outdoor Environmental Learning Stations – Faith Falkenstein and Justyne Louk/WCPS – $5,000 – The goal of this program is to create environmental outdoor learning labs in order to spark scientific curiosity and offer opportunities for scientific exploration and discovery for students. Getting out of the classroom to work in the areas of STEM/STEAM helps to foster students’ abilities to be curious and ask questions. Taking care of our environment tomorrow means instilling a love of nature in today’s students. The project will help to foster growth in science and math achievement by:
    • Developing higher‐level thinking skills
    • Developing creative thinking and problem‐solving skills
    • Developing effective and advanced communication skills
  • Floral Coolers – Grace Bucklen/SHS – $4,475 – The goal of this program is to have a floral design cooler in the agriculture department at Skyline High School to be able to offer hands on floral design opportunities to students. Activities using the floral cooler would include, but are not limited to, staff make‐and‐take workshops, community make-and‐take workshops, floral design services for SHS sports and other feeder schools of SHS, floral design services for County events, floral design services to community members, etc.
  • Community Teamwork – Holly Deaner/WCMS – $1,800 – The project goal is to build communication and collaboration skills within students and surrounding community members with teamwork. In a world where technology dominates society, we find our community of students struggling with basic communication and collaboration skills. As educators we have found that this issue continues to add to behavioral problems. Students struggle with the vocabulary that enables them to build teams and networks that produce success. A Gaga Pit provides an activity that is unique and safe, and it promotes teamwork through the communication and collaboration skills needed to win; Gaga Ball is a kinder, gentler version of dodgeball played in a large octagon with a soft playground ball. This activity would be placed by the playground, where surrounding communities can reap the benefits as well. It enables children to teach their families a new activity, thus building on the desired skills.
  • Zooming In for a New Perspective – Randa Vernazza/Brighter Futures – $1,300 – The project will purchase functional microscopes for the students of Diversified Minds/Brighter Futures. Students will be able to gain a new perspective on life by seeing things they did not know were there. Activities will include zooming in to observe both living and nonliving things.
  • Unplug, Unwind, and Unite – Pam Waters/WCMS – $3,500 – In an effort to support families of students with disabilities and also work towards the Warren County Public Schools’ theme of Engaging Every Family, this grant will set up a family game night in which families will play board and card games together with other families of students in their child’s class. Family Game Night will be an unplugged event (no video games or internet required); board and card games will be used. Students can work on their social skills of turn taking, being a good sport and using appropriate conversations while families and parents can network and get to know the families of students in their child’s class (often there is a gap in these relationships and this grant would help bridge this gap). With grant money, the event can begin as an activity that occurs at least once per quarter, with the possibility of increasing the event to every other month for multiple years. As part of the funding, families who participate will be offered a new game to take home to continue the fun at home.
  • Positivity Rooms – Emily Whitacre and Joey Adams/SMS – $5,000 – This project will create two separate environments within the school to foster a sense of safety and expression among students whose behavior exhibits school-related stress. Sensory Rooms create an environment which positively impacts various types of students, including students with disabilities, students who are overstimulated, as well as students who are in need of an unscheduled time to work on de‐escalation techniques.
  • Steel Drum Class – David Dingess/WCHS – $10,000 – The goal of this program is to create a Steel Pan Band Class in order to increase the opportunities for all students who are in the high school to learn and enrich their lives in music. In high school, many of the music classes that are offered follow up on knowledge and skills already learned at the middle school in band and choir classes. Other classes are offered for students who did not take a music class early, but they are often steeped in the traditional methods of western music. This program would expand opportunities for the community’s increasingly diverse student population who may not have had those opportunities in middle school to be a part of the band. Steel Pans were originated in Trinidad and have a unique African/Latino mix of culture and music that can not only increase the opportunities for students who are looking for additional musical options in high school, but may be a place for members of minority populations to experience music of their own heritage and history.
  • Soar Shop: A Skyline School Store – Megan Moore/SMS – $4,000 – This program has two connected goals. First, students will learn responsibility, the value of work, and financial literacy skills by operating and shopping at the store. Second, the store’s earnings will be used to fund reading programs and the purchase of student‐requested library books. The grant will be used to fund the start‐up materials for a school store operated by members of the Student Government Association (SGA). It will offer general school supplies, stress‐reducing fidgets, school spirit materials, vinyl stickers, and Chromebook accessories. These SGA members will learn business skills that will prepare them to be community leaders in the future. The proceeds of this store will help fund the library in uncertain times. Skyline Middle School also lacks a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) that would help subsidize these books. The school store would allow students to help fund the books they want most, helping to pull in reluctant readers. Sadly, we also realize that many of our students come from low-income households. By seeking grant money to fund the start‐up of our school store, we would be able to distribute shopping vouchers to students with the most need. Students could earn vouchers through working in the library, teaching students the value of their work.
  • STEAM Lab – Holly Deaner/WCMS – $2,000 – The project goal is to promote critical thinking skills and creativity within our students by integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. Building a STEAM Lab in WCMS for student and teachers to utilize will enable students to build upon and create connections across all content areas. STEAM also builds teamwork, collaboration, and communication skills, which are all necessary in today’s age where students are dominated by technology and limited in these areas. STEAM education is an approach to learning that builds on teamwork, collaboration, and creativity connecting across curriculum. Students apply content learned within the classroom through exploration, building, innovative thinking, and reflective opportunities to enhance designs in order to produce a greater result.
  • Pathways and Connections Classroom Necessities and Improvements – Penny Cook/WCMS – $4,200 – This project’s goal is to update and supply the Pathways and Connections’ kitchen and classroom with much-needed equipment, cookware, bakeware, dinnerware, utensils, and a rolling cart/bar in order to store and sell products as students go around the school. This gives students an opportunity to learn, practice, and perform daily life skill goals per their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). It is vital that these students learn to do as much as they can for themselves, on their own. The ultimate goal is for the students to learn how to perform everyday life skills and to be as independent as possible as adults. The Pathways and Connections classroom is self‐contained, serving multiple-disabled students. In the classroom, it is an important goal for students to learn and practice everyday living skills such as cooking, baking, running the dishwasher, running the washing machine and dryer, and folding the laundry. These students are the school’s community helpers, so they go around and gather up any towels, washcloths, or rags that teachers have, and the students take care of the items weekly; then they return the clean items back to the staff. These students are young entrepreneurs; on Fridays they operate a mobile coffee and snack cart to each grade level hallway to sell their products to the staff. This task gives them knowledge of dealing with the public, customer service, and what it means to provide a good or product to someone for payment to earn money.
  • Classroom Book A Day – Rita Werner/LFK – $6,500 – The goal of the project is to inspire everyone to read more and to find joy in books. Exposure to various types of texts will help young learners connect texts to themselves, to other texts, and to the world, deepening their understanding and helping them to grow as readers. The Book A Day project is to promote reading and engage our young readers every day with a new book. Being exposed to all types of books is important for building background knowledge which lends itself to better understanding. The Classroom Book A Day Project gives teachers the needed resources to read books to their students and be the role model for reading. This Books A Day Project would provide teachers with newest books available as well as incorporate content specific books along with the classics that we all know and love. There is no greater joy for a teacher than to see a student be engaged and intrigued by a book that is being read to them. This project would allow teachers to have access to more books and to expose their students to books they may not have access to at home.
  • Pathways and Connections Transition Workboxes – Jessica Kelly/WCHS – $1,500 – The goal of this project is to provide functional activities to guide students with disabilities toward functional job and community interactions by using tools in the classroom to prepare them. Student-centered workboxes will be created that promote independence and foster abilities that will carry to the home and community. Task lists, materials, organizational spaces, printing, and lamination will all be used toward creating these special boxes. Students will have simulated real-life goals such as putting the correct batteries in the correct flashlight and making it work. They will also count money using the dollar up system, roll coins, take orders, provide change, and so much more. Students will have opportunities to sort, stock, and organize materials such as they would at a job site.

The Endowment is a catalyst for improving the education and learning environment in Warren County Public Schools. Sometimes it takes private support of public efforts to incubate an idea or a new approach that helps students compete in a global marketplace, instills passion for life-long learning, and sparks a vision to strive for success. Programs funded by the Endowment are sponsored by our school system and are consistent with its mission and direction. They are intended to initiate sustained improvement in the fundamental capability of the school system and enhance the attractiveness of the community through the promotion of educational excellence.

Persons interested in supporting the Endowment can contact the Endowment or make a donation by CLICKING HERE.