With the school year now in full swing, leaders of two nonprofits -- the Bartow Education Foundation and Cartersville Schools Foundation -- are looking ahead to how they will support students, as well as teachers and others who work with them, in the coming months.
One way in which they will help teachers, and by extension students, is through their respective teacher grant programs. Grants awarded by the foundations are often used to purchase items to be used in conjunction with teachers' lessons, such as hands-on materials, books, multimedia and more; other school employees may also apply for the grants.
Earlier this year, the Bartow Education Foundation awarded more than $78,000 in grants to employees in the district it supports, Bartow County Schools. That total was nearly $25,000 more than the amount awarded in the previous year. Dot Frasier, executive director of the foundation, said she hopes this school year's total will surpass $80,000 by the time grant recipients are recognized at a Jan. 11 banquet at the Cartersville Civic Center.
If the grant total reaches that mark, it will set a new record for the foundation and its teacher grant program. The foundation has been in existence for about a decade; the teacher grant program, since 1996.
"Even though it's a bad year as far as the economy, people are still giving, and our payroll deduction is still up there," Frasier said, adding that while the foundation last school year was pulling well over $4,000 a month in donations from employee payroll deductions, she expects to see the monthly haul break the $5,000 mark this year.
"When the school people and the community know there's a need out there, and know they can help, then they will, and they always have. They've just always come through, and they're doing it again this year," Frasier added.
The Cartersville Schools Foundation will award its grants to selected Cartersville City Schools educators by Oct. 29, with recipients recognized at a November school board meeting. Last year, nearly 20 educators received 17 mini-grants totaling $6,565.
Officials with both organizations say that while their respective school districts have dealt with funding cuts in the past few years, the teacher grants are no more or less important as they have been in the past.
"The mini-grants have always gone to support the standards," said Lisa Bell, president of the Cartersville Schools Foundation. "They're supporting the things that the teachers have to teach, but they're projects they've never been able to pay for with tax funds or school money or anything. These have always been extra projects, fun projects, hands-on projects, and the money had to come from an outside source to be able to do these things because the money never was available through the school or through tax money. So they're just as important."
"I wouldn't say they're more important this year," Frasier said, "but teachers certainly don't have, and the school doesn't have, the money to sponsor the things they're asking for. They certainly are useful, but they always have been."
Applications for both foundations' grants are due Oct. 15.
The Bartow Education Foundation next month also will be focused on recognizing Bartow's best educators, as foundation officials are sponsoring the district's annual Teacher of the Year banquet, which will be held Oct. 28.
Frasier said that while the foundation has not scheduled any specific fundraisers this year, the organization likely will get some help from the schools themselves, as officials have discussed letting schools hold their own fundraising events.
While no fundraising events have been scheduled for the near future by the Cartersville Schools Foundation, Bell said the nonprofit will redouble its focus on the "Honor Thy Teacher" campaign, which allows parents the opportunity to donate to the foundation in honor of a teacher or school staff member who had an impact on their child or children's lives. The honored employee receives a certificate with the student's name on it and comments of appreciation. The donated funds will support classroom grants.
"I know the teachers that received them really, really enjoyed that, and a lot of them have them hanging in their rooms, on their boards and everything," Bell said. "It's just a nice way to give back to the school, and at the same time, really say thanks to a teacher who made an impact."
The foundation, she added, is looking at having some type of fundraiser this spring, with the majority of its proceeds likely going to cover the GateKey program. Students who receive free or reduced lunches are eligible for nomination to the scholarship program, which gives selected scholars upon graduation from high school funds for tuition and an allowance for books or tools for two years at either Georgia Highlands College or Chattahoochee Technical College -- provided they maintained during their grade-school career a "C" average in all classes, completed homework assignments and remained crime and drug free. The funds can also go toward students' college expenses if they obtain the HOPE scholarship and pursue another Georgia college.
In March of this year, the foundation inducted 26 Cartersville students into the GateKey Scholarship program, bringing its total to 50. The program is set to have its first two graduates this spring.
Bell said donations made to the foundation can be earmarked for GateKey Scholarships, though donations are also being sought to send those students on college visits.
"The college trips are really great, the ones that we're taking these GateKey kids on, because it keeps them motivated," Bell said. "A lot of these kids haven't had these experiences at all before, so this is really huge. It really helps to keep them on track, keep them motivated, give them a little bit extra drive. Most of these kids are just knocking it out of the park -- they're so driven already, but still, this makes them think, 'Wow, that's possible for me,' and they just come back really excited, so to continue to do this is really big for them.
"Anything that goes into that GateKey scholarship fund, 100 percent of it goes in, so we have to come up with extra money to be able to do the college trips and stuff with the kids," she added. "Any money is always welcome for that, and of course there's the mini-grant program. That makes a huge impact on a lot of kids. The mini-grants pretty much touch all the kids in the system."
For more information on the Cartersville Schools Foundation, call Bell at 770-387-4710.
For more information on the Bartow Education Foundation, call Frasier at Bartow County Schools' central office, 770-606-5800, extension 3858.