BISD students, staff receive more than $11,000 in grants from Beaumont Public Schools Foundation

Photo by Sharon Brooks

The Beaumont Public Schools Foundation (BPSF) distributed more than $11,000 in grants to Beaumont Independent School District students and staff during the 2016 Spring Grant Caravan on Friday, May 13. BPSF board members and friends visited eight BISD campuses and surprised several staff and students by presenting them with items requested for innovative classroom projects to enhance the learning experience at the schools.

BPSF, established in 1993, has been providing grants to BISD teachers and students for creative learning endeavors each fall and spring semester for many years, distributing more than $236,000 to 351 grant awardees in that time. This semester, says BPSF Executive Director Beth Rhoades, the group was able to distribute more money than ever due to benevolent contributions. A total of $11,423.04 in project materials was distributed for the 12 grants awarded in Spring 2016.

Marshall Middle School teacher Amanda Balla received a grant amounting to $996.35 for items needed to allow her students to form an after-school robotics team. She requested the Lego EV3 Mindstorms education core and extension packs consisting of correlated software necessary for students to design, build and program a robot to perform multiple tasks, then applying the knowledge to real-world issues. The robotics team would compete at the local level, and possibly participate in state and national competitions, as well.

“I applied for the grant to start an after-school Lego League,” Balla said. “The kids will build robots to be in a challenge.”

She said last year’s goal was recycling and reusing trash. Now, they will be designing and building their own robots.

Regina-Howell Elementary School students were thrilled when the caravan arrived in their classroom to distribute two separate grants to two groups of students working together to save the campus garden. Students could be heard whispering excitedly, “We got the grant! We got the grant!”

Cooper Stanford, Brendan Manibo, Scott Strickland, Darrin Wyche, Dallas Le, Michael Endres and Brandon Nowakowski received grant items amounting to $685.89 for their creative classroom project called “Worm Sanctuary: Nutrients for All.” The Regina-Howell fifth-graders will be raising earthworms in a bin filled with dirt and composting materials. Worms are good for gardening, Regina-Howell science teacher Jennifer Babers explained, because they increase the amount of air and water that gets into the soil, and break down organic matter like leaves and grass for use by the plants. When earthworms eat, they leave behind a beneficial, all-natural fertilizer.

Student Darrin Wyche said, “The worms help create a rich, rich soil. We want to use that soil in the garden instead of using fertilizer, which has chemicals that leak into the ground. We want to do it naturally.”

Lorena Patel, Emma Kindwall, Tate Whitney, Madison Cooper, Jasmine Emmert, Brynn Broaddus, Jaelun Parkerson, Henna Karani and Ally Thompson were awarded $957.33 in grant project items for their project, “Grow-it Greenhouse.” The fifth-graders want to build a greenhouse around the wooden planters outside where they have grown spices, melons, tomatoes and more in order to protect the precious plants. Student Tate Whitney said the plants are over-exposed and in danger of dying without the proper care.

“They’re getting too much sun,” she explained. “The greenhouse would give us a better way to grow the plants.”

Wyche and Whitney are fifth-graders and will be leaving soon, but both said they want to leave something valuable behind for the students following them.

Babers said the greenhouse project is enhancing the students’ love for science and actively educating them.

“I’m really trying to foster them to major in math and science,” she said. “They worked really, really hard.”

In addition to the scientific knowledge the students are gaining through gardening, Babers said the planning taught them another life lesson – how to manage money.

“They told me it was really hard for them to stay on a budget,” Babers said, smiling.

BISD staff and students are welcome to apply for grants for creative learning projects throughout the year, and BPSF distributes grants at the end of the fall and spring semesters, said Rhoades. For more information, visit