Nonprofit distributes $13,000 in grants at local schools

Beaumont ISD Officer Macie Bergeron and Chief Rob Flores

The Beaumont Public Schools Foundation (BPSF) distributed nearly $13,000 in grant items to students and staff of the Beaumont Independent School District (BISD) for innovative classroom projects during the 2016 Fall Grant Caravan on Dec. 2. The foundation and friends visited nine campuses and the BISD Police Department, awarding 12 grants to 11 staff and a group of five students.

South Park Middle School eighth graders Mickey Henley, Micah Clark, Dremar Washington, Bradley Thomas and Eduardo Escuadra received a grant in the amount of $833.54 for their scientific and altruistic endeavor, aptly dubbed “Pilot Program for Prosthetics for Kids Team.” The teens requested a 3D printer and special cartridges to make a prosthetic for a child.

According to information from the foundation, “For about $30, a middle school prosthetic team can make a finger or a hand for a child with a 3D printer.”

The optimistic academic dream team said they want to make an arm with a working hand.

“Some people are born with missing limbs, and some people have accidents and lose limbs,” said Eduardo Escuadra after being awarded the requested 3D printer and cartridges from BPSF. “We wanted to help.”

“Sometimes kids who are missing limbs are teased or get laughed at,” two-time grant recipient Dremar Washington remarked.

“Seeing kids with missing limbs struggle or be made fun of, nobody should have to go through that,” Micah Clark said. “We saw that another school had made a prosthetic limb, and we decided we wanted to do it.”

Technology Applications teacher Lisa Weber said she encouraged the team of students to apply for the grant, and she was proud of what they had accomplished.

BPSF board member Fannie Brown said it’s up to teachers like Weber to stimulate creative learning in students.

“You provided inspiration,” Brown praised Weber. “You sparked a wildfire.”

This is the second grant award for three members of the group. During BPSF’s Fall 2014 grant caravan, Thomas, Clark and Washington received $1,000 in components for building The X-Bot 3000, a robot that recognizes and responds to voice commands. The hands-on project taught the students about robotics engineering and was generally a fun learning tool, according to the group.

A little later in the day, the BPSF team stopped at the BISD Police Department to make a special delivery to Chief Rob Flores and his dedicated team of officers. Flores applied for a grant for bicycles for his officers to provide improved safety at school events on BISD campuses. He said the bikes would also allow him to teach students about bicycle safety, like stressing the importance of utilizing helmets and other safety gear.

BPSF President Sal Guerrero and Treasurer Nathan Cross rode the bicycles into the station, happily surprising Flores and staff.

“This is great,” Flores said of the award. “We really appreciate this. We’re going to put them to good use.”

Flores said the bicycles allow a “good, quick response” to calls at special school events, like parades and football games, in addition to them being routinely utilized on various campuses.

According to him, “It’s a good tool, and it’s easier for students to approach officers when they’re on the bikes.”

BPSF was established in 1993. Since then, the nonprofit foundation has been providing grants to BISD teachers and students for creative learning endeavors biannually during fall and spring semesters, distributing more than $249,342 to 363 grant awardees in that time. A total of $12,917.83 in project materials was distributed for the 12 grants awarded in Fall 2016.

Besides the education grants the foundation distributes, BPSF provided $4,000 in assistance for the purchase of clothing and school supplies following hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and over the years has awarded a total of 96 scholarships to BISD students, amounting to $63,000.

Each semester, says BPSF Executive Director Beth Rhoades, the foundation receives more grant applications and, due to benevolent contributions of donors to the foundation, has been able to distribute more grants.

“The competition was very stiff this time,” said Rhoades. “We had an overwhelming number applications this semester. We’re so pleased to be able to give out almost $13,000 in grants.”

Board President Guerrero also credits donors with the foundation’s continued success, including benefactors such as ExxonMobil.

“ExxonMobil matches what we raise so, with their help, we have been able to double up on the awards and give out even more grants,” said Guerrero. “It’s really great for the students, and we have a lot of fun giving out the grants.”

BISD staff and students are welcome to apply for grants for creative learning projects throughout the year. BPSF distributes grants twice each school year at the end of the fall and spring semesters. For more information, visit www.bmtisd.com/pages/BeaumontISD/Departments/Beaumont_Public_Schools_Founda.

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