The GWEF formed at the start of the school year, and with just nine members, they were able to raise more than $75,000 in less than a year.
“We are specifically for education; we are education boosters,” GWEF secretary Melaine Martin said.
Concerns about the impact of tax cuts and a smaller school budget led to the formation of the GWEF, according to GWEF President Darlene Rhodes. The group consists of Rhodes, Martin, Sherri Watkins, Mable Humphrey, Michelle Johnston, Scott Carroll, Melissa Troell, Ann Cansino and John Steelhammer.
“We didn’t know what to expect; it was only our first year,” Rhodes said. “Port Aransas has an education foundation, and they took us under their wing and taught us the ins and outs, and we emulated them with great success. The community is amazing. It really is.”
Their first fundraiser was a skeet shoot, dinner and dance in October which raised approximately $50,000, according to Rhodes. Rhodes also said that several corporations have made contributions since then.
The primary school received the largest portion of the grants at $19,585, followed by the high school with $14,579.32, then the junior high school with $11,807.77 and the elementary school with $5,000.
“We had an overwhelming response,” Martin said as she explained how their requests were made. “These teachers know their students and we want to think outside the box to reach the kids.”
The group had $100,000 worth of requests to review before making their final selections in March.
Each of the requests went through a request process online where the teacher had to explain why they wanted the grant, what the outcome would be from getting it, and if any funding would be needed to sustain it.
Part of this process involved the GWEF verifying there was no other funding available.
“It is very specific. It isn’t as simple as saying, ‘Hey, can I have a TV for my room?’” Rhodes said.
The remainder of the funds GWEF raised so far this year will be used to keep the foundation going, to award more grants and for hosting another skeet shoot, dinner and dance fundraiser next fall, according to Rhodes.
The following are the grants the GWEF awarded on Wednesday:
• Mia Balko - $1,700 for a laptop computer and 51-inch television for the GWHS Agriculture Department and $1,920 for the GWHS FFA students to attend the Texas FFA Convention.
• Margarita Cantu - $1,500 for the GWHS Spanish Club’s cultural trip to attend the Pan American Student Forum of Texas convention.
• Estela Chapa, Sandy Cole, Carolyn Dye, Isabel Hernandez, Winnie Johnson, Sandra Liska and Grace Torres – Seven MIMIO smartboards for the GW primary campus at $1,959 each.
• Linda Clark - $1,392.77 for a flatbed scanner and laser printer with toner.
• Kelan Grimes - $415 for film clips for character education at the GWJHS campus. Grimes said it’s a video series that uses popular movies to teach lessons about how students can work together and build self-esteem.
“I’m so excited. It’s just a great program,” Grimes said.
• Gwen Holt - $5,000 for 100 TI-NSPIRE calculators for the GWHS math department.
• Lori Katzfey - $5,000 for an award-winning author to visit the GWES library.
• Samantha Keadle – $10,000 for 14 notebook computers with Microsoft Office Academic and hardware support for the GWJHS. Keadle actually made two requests for seven notebooks at $5,000 for each request and both were granted.
• Kendra Mergele - $5,000 for library books at the primary school.
• Claire Olsovsky - $3,559.32 for six electronic balances and six Vernier LabQuest2 sets for the high school chemistry and physics department.
• Juan Rodriguez - $900 for the GWHS band’s summer clinic.
• Kim Steelhammer - $872.88 for 24 therapy balls at the primary school. Steelhammer said the balls are for energetic students to sit on while they work so they can expel some of that energy through balancing while they study.
For more information on the GWEF, go to gweducationfoundation.org.