Investing in Kids (INK!) along with the Community First Cares Foundation, the charitable giving arm of Community First Credit Union, announces the success of its Champions for Children grants that funded innovative classroom projects in St. Johns County schools during the 2022-2023 school year. Community First Cares gave $25,000 for Champions for Children for the school year, all of which was distributed to local teachers. INK! and Community First Cares teams celebrated the program this week with visits to classrooms to see the impacts of the grants with students and teachers.
Building upon their longstanding partnership to provide educational support to St. Johns County public schools, INK! and the Community First Cares Foundation provided Champions for Children grant funding for classroom projects in the academic areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). Teachers in some of the most economically challenged schools in the St. Johns County School District received Champions for Children grant funding for projects posted on the DonorsChoose platform.
INK! and Community First funded classroom STEAM projects at nine schools across St. Johns County including Crookshank Elementary School, Osceola Elementary School, Otis Mason Elementary School, South Woods Elementary School, The Evelyn Hamblen Center, The Webster School, R.J. Murray Middle School, Sebastian Middle School, and St. Augustine High School. Champions for Children grants of $1,000 or $1,500 supported students and teachers in the development of key competencies of STEAM learning with the integration and application of content knowledge, skills, and academics. These projects typically would not qualify for traditional public or district funding.
“Community First Cares is proud to continue to support education and our teachers in St. Johns County,” said Missy Peters, executive director of the Community First Cares Foundation. “These grants have a significant impact on creative and innovative learning. The credit union was founded by educators for educators and we continue that commitment through partnerships like this across Northeast Florida.”
Amy Brim, a gifted teacher at South Woods Elementary School in Elkton received grant funding for her project. Brim’s students in kindergarten through fifth grades will benefit from STEAM and social skills development through the innovative project she named World Changers.
Brim explained that bright students may thrive on academics yet may struggle with real life skills. With materials funded by the grant, students have access to scholastically designed tools to help them persevere and demonstrate patience and persistence during difficult tasks that are designed to be challenging, engaging, and rigorous.
Funding was also awarded to Chasity Pitre, a fourth-grade teacher at Osceola Elementary School in St. Augustine for her project Wildcat Pride: STEAM Edition (Providing Rich Intervention Deepening Education). Project materials for the Wildcat Pride project include a 3D printer, hands-on learning games, engineering and building sets, and educational tools to provide students with learning experiences that foster collaboration, creativity, problem solving and communication. These skills build resiliency and a growth mindset where failures and mistakes are encouraged.
Donna Lueders, INK!’s executive director, says the nonprofit is fortunate to have local partners and business leaders in the community who strengthen the organization’s mission, programs, and services. “We are so appreciative of the partnership we have with Community First Cares Foundation and grateful for the foundation’s support for educators and students in St. Johns County classrooms,” said Lueders.
About the Community First Cares Foundation
The Community First Cares Foundation, founded in 2013 by Community First Credit Union, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) community foundation that grants funds to improve the quality of life in North Florida. The foundation supports activities to improve financial literacy, enhance the quality of our educational system, upgrade the health and welfare of our community and help underserved citizens. The Community First Cares Foundation makes contributions to non-profit organizations that serve the communities on the First Coast. Learn more at www.communityfirstcares.org/.