Jordan Education Foundation's mini grants have a big impact

Long-term planning • Projects have to be able to persist over several years.
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This year, through its mini-grant program, the Jordan Education Foundation raised almost $77, 000 for the district's schools.

The money will be divided into a series of $500 grants for which teachers can apply. Any teacher or groups of teachers who are working full-time in the Jordan School District are eligible. Last year, 87 percent of applicants received funding. Steven Hall, the foundation's director, explained that when the board and volunteers sat down to rank and score the applications, their only guidelines were that the projects be sustainable.

"If it's consumable, we don't fund it," Hall said.

Hall, along with teachers on the ground, have noticed a distinct shift in school culture that they attribute to the influx of technology and funding in classrooms. After all, a large part of the program is rewarding ambitious teachers with cutting-edge technology.

"[The foundation] responded to the needs of motivated teachers," Hall said.

Part of the program is experimenting with new equipment, seeing what works and what doesn't. The program funded the district's first iPads in classrooms, and because of their success as a teaching tool, they since have been installed district-wide.

He and the soon-to-be president of the board, David Jenkins, a civil engineer and the president of Enzyme Engineering, both emphasized how much they enjoyed the mini-grant project and being a part of foundation in general. For them, the foundation is about the teachers and ultimately, all about the students — 100 percent of donations to the Jordan Education Foundation go directly to programs like this one.

Jenkins, a board member going on six years and the head of the committee for the mini-grant program, emphasized how much he enjoys giving back.

"The time and effort you put in is well worth the reward you get from it," he said, despite the grueling work of grading the applications. The veteran principal of Daybreak Elementary School, Doree Strauss, relies on this program as a key source of outside funding for her classrooms. Strauss encourages teachers, especially those new to the profession, to apply. She runs a workshop to help educators brainstorm and write up their applications.

She is "thrilled" that Utah businesses are partnering with the foundation to donate both their time and money to improving education. As principal, Strauss has witnessed many happy moments for students, teachers, parents and administrators alike as a result of the mini-grant program. The program truly enriches the educational experience for under-funded teachers, providing them with resources and tools they could otherwise not afford, she said.

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