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Photo by Diane Cox
Lynda Willings (right) stands with students from the Fun Family Book Club as they read letters of thanks to the board members and donors of the Alton Educational Foundation. The club was formed after receiving a grant from the foundation.
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Photo by Diane Cox
Alton Middle School students Alero Watson and Kara Baker demonstrate their project for donors and board members of the Alton Educational Foundation Jan. 19 at West Elementary School.
ALTON — Alton Educational Foundation board members, teachers and donors gathered at West Elementary School Jan. 19 to showcase projects made possible by foundation grant funds.
“Last year we were able to give grants totaling $21,000 to local teachers; this year it increased to $22,000,” foundation President Ryan Bemis said. “I love that those who donated to the foundation were here to see first-hand how their generosity has benefited the students. What the teachers have done with the grant money is amazing, and it’s great to see the projects the students are working on.”
Alton Middle School art teacher Angel Weber received $1,077 for Artists Are Inventors. She challenged her students to use the mechanics of a prosthetic hand to consider future options in prosthetics and to use a wheelchair to make something artistic and functional. The inspiration for the project came from artists like Leonardo da Vinci, who also were inventors.
“I’m only with my students two hours a week and to see what they accomplished is beyond amazing,” Weber said. “I’m so proud. These were not easy assignments and they were persistent in their efforts. We wanted to challenge the students to invent something while applying it to the arts while using engineering and math at their grade level. They had choices and decided to tackle the two hardest options. They did research, data collection, interviews, learned how to make prototypes at Cope Plastic and they also had to learn to market their invention.”
West Elementary librarian Lynda Willings received $2,964 for Join the Fun, Family Book Club, which provided books for a club that pairs students and parents in summer evening meetings. Student participants wrote letters to donors to tell them about their favorite book, their experience with their family and to thank them for their donation.
“We were able to purchase 30 copies of each book so students at West Elementary and Eunice Smith could have enough copies to share,” Willings said. “The family book club got the parents involved with the students and opened a new dialogue with their children. The students have loved the books and any time a student enjoys reading, we as educators feel we are achieving our goal as teachers.”
Foundation grants have provided continued educational material at the high school level to help students prepare for college and military entrance exams. Students have benefited from the material and have achieved success such as raising their ACT scores and improved scholarship earnings.
The Guardians of Education was launched by the Alton Educational Foundation in January 2014 as a primary fundraising effort. The foundation’s goals are to enhance educational opportunities, support academic excellence and encourage student achievement through donations from residents, teachers, businesses and parents.
“If each parent, teacher or staff member donated just $5, the grants to local teachers would probably quadruple in size,” Bemis said. “If more local businesses were able to make a donation, think of how many students in our community would benefit. Those students could become employees of those businesses after college. Giving the children in our school districts the best educational opportunities is priceless. These students will have a better future because of the additional grant-funded projects throughout their school career.”
Anyone interested in donating to the foundation can visit www.altoned.org to make an online donation with a credit-debit card or PayPal transaction or mail their donation to Alton Educational Fund, P.O. Box 514, Alton, IL 62002. Donations are tax-deductible.