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Grants make class projects possible

The not-for-profit Hernando County Education Foundation recently began handing out more than $12,000 in classroom minigrants for 33 classroom-related projects.

The grants, ranging from $100 to $500, will go to projects and activities not covered by normal classroom funding.

The money will make a huge difference in the classroom for local educators.

"For a lot of us who want to provide something special to our students, it's a real blessing to know there's a way to get the money to do it," said Dana Cottrell, media specialist at Fox Chapel Middle.

For the past four years, Cottrell has organized a National History Day competition, a schoolwide contest designed to encourage participation in history awareness.

Several of Cottrell's students have been chosento attend state and national competitions.

"It's a wonderful way of getting them involved in doing research and learning as much as they can about a particular event or person," said Cottrell.

"They come away from it knowing that they've spent time doing something beneficial for themselves as students."

Although Cottrell says she probably still could stage the annual event without the foundation's $500 gift, the funds help a lot, she says.

"Having the money allows me to help kids buy materials for their projects, and it helps entice them to put in the effort to make them that much better," Cottrell said.

The foundation, which is made up of local leaders from the county's business, education and governmental sectors, has been making the minigrants available for the past 14 years.

To be considered for one of the grants, teachers must submit an application and specify how the project will tie in things such as community partnerships and the school's improvement plan.

Above all, they must show in detail how it benefits the participating students.

"One of the greatest things about the minigrant program is that it gets teachers to think beyond just their classroom," said Hernando County Education Foundation executive director Carolyn Mountain.

"We put a high value on how the projects will benefit the whole school because it teaches children the value of doing for others."

The foundation is having an up year, Mountain said, due in part to recent fundraising efforts and the success of its annual Teacher of the Year banquet.

The majority of the money raised by such events goes back to the classrooms, she said.

"It's something the community should be very proud of," said Mountain.

"Our purpose is to help teachers teach better and to offer a way to do that more effectively."


Brooksville Elementary: Amy Anderson, Amber Singer, Leigh Ann Ledford, Sue Loveday

Central High: Mary Dysart

Chocachatti Elementary: Connie Ottoson, Norma Foote, Carol Ballard, Dorane Adair, Missy Keller, Dawn Bishop

Fox Chapel Middle: Kathleen Buchnowski, Peter Vatistas, Amiee Moon, Zondra Um, Dana Cottrell

Pine Grove Elementary: Jaqueline Capo, Paula Clark, Ann McCullister, Jennifer Campbell, Debbie Jacoby, Kristal Rickard

D.S. Parrott Middle: Terry Rose

Powell Middle: Priscilla Young, Roger Swartz

Springstead High: Harry Wilson, Don Wilcox, Sonia Terrelonge

Suncoast Elementary: Diane Martinez, Barbara Punchak, JoAnn Hartge

Westside Elementary: Mary Knight, Barbara Wells, Tandra Lamia, Howard Frey.