Organization awards over $6,000 in grants

Smith Middle School Principal Wilbert Andrews, Dejia McCartney, Deja’ Renaé Baloney, De’Naja Copes, L’Tunya Bernard, BPSF President Shirlene Cook and BISD Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Shirley Bonton

The Beaumont Public Schools Foundation Inc. (BPSF) surprised seven Beaumont Independent School District staff members and three students by presenting them with grants totaling $6,022.80 during an award caravan Friday, Dec. 7.

BPSF board members distributed the awards by caravanning from campus to campus to give grant-winners a special gift and the materials requested in their respective grant applications.

The caravan started at Fletcher Elementary with staff member Amy Harris winning a grant in the amount of $220 for a subscription to the National Geographic Kids Magazine for her second grade students. Oaks Education Center school nurse Phyllis Smith received a grant for $725 in the form of modified weight training equipment for students with disabilities. Her goal was to improve the quality of life for students on her campus.

At the last stop on the caravan, Smith Middle School, five separate grants were issued to winners there. Grantees at Smith included teachers Sonya Akers and L’Tunya Bernard along with students Deja’ Renae’ Baloney, Dejia McCartney and De’Naja Copes. Bernard has won a total of six grants and has had 17 students win grants during her career. Bernard and her students focused on environmental issues. This semester she won for her project “The Red Planet Goes Green.” Her students will take on the roles of scientists and mathematicians investigating the hardships that would be imposed if Earth were inhabitable. Bernard received a globe of Mars along with several other items to allow students to utilize high-order reasoning skills to construct simulation models bearing live plants, insects, worms and artificial light. The modules are used to compare Mars to Earth and are designed to help students understand the human impact on the environment and the necessity for a self-sustaining ecosystem.

“It’s like Christmas,” Bernard said of receiving the grant-funded supplies. “This class is trying to turn our school eco-friendly. … I was looking at Venus and Mars, which we would be most likely to inhabit after Earth. What would it take to make it livable?”

Baloney said her project was fun and could help prevent waste.

“Mine was ‘Writing in Electricity,’” Baloney said. “You can write without a pen or a pencil.”

For her grant, she received an electricity kit to demonstrate key concepts of electro-chemistry. Her project utilizes a copper pen rather than a traditional, disposable pen or pencil to follow the flow of electrons in the electrolysis of watery potassium iodide.

McCartney’s grant focused on color electrolysis, and she received a color electricity kit to show fellow students color changes that occur in chemically treated water after inserting an electric card. Copes project was “Greenhouse and Global Warming.” She received Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming kits, which would allow students to conduct research experiments to measure the amount of gases in the atmosphere and the effects on Earth’s temperature.

“I am so happy and thankful,” Copes said after being presented with her award. “We need to help prevent global warming.”

BPSF collects funds for grants throughout the year during events like the Fiesta Breakfast on Oct. 30, which garnered almost $12,000 for the organization. During the fall and spring, the foundation distributes the grants to winning applicants. Staff and students of BISD participate in the competition to win materials for special school projects.