Foundation Just Keeps on Growing

Has Funded More Than $1 Million in Teacher, Building Needs

A guest peruses needs identified by Collins Elementary staffers before entering bid information

Forest Hills Eastern High School teacher Jaclyn Hartman’s science students will be able to study a real-world issue for which jobs are currently being created and shaped, thanks to a $487 grant from the Forest Hills Public Schools Foundation. And the hands-on experience they will get meets next-generation educational standards.

Hartman’s “Forest to Fuel” project will allow her chemistry students to explore the creation of biofuels using scrap wood left behind after lumber is harvested.

“I like students to see that what they are learning is relevant to the world outside of school, that there is possibility in helping society, and that there are jobs to be had through what they are learning.” said Hartman, who received the funding in the fall and recently started preparing students to begin the project.

Edward Kuo, Forest Hills Public Schools Foundation board chairman, teacher of the year Linda Sagorski, and Superintendent Dan Behm at the November fundraising gala
Edward Kuo, Forest Hills Public Schools Foundation board chairman, teacher of the year Linda Sagorski, and Superintendent Dan Behm at the November fundraising gala

“(Students’) innovation and problem-solving comes in attempting to make the process more cost-effective,” she added. “This would allow us, as a society, to be better about how we use our resources.”

Hartman was one of two dozen district teachers who had $71,803 in projects funded in the fall by the Forest Hills Public School Foundation. Once the spring awards are announced in April, the district’s philanthropic arm will have disbursed more than $143,000 this school year.

Funding for the individual teacher grants comes from special events, staff fund drives, a major gifts program and planned giving.

But that isn’t where the foundation’s efforts stop. Besides Hartman’s biofuel project, e-books, art supplies, brass instruments and sensory learning equipment are among the items funded at the “Support Our Schools” gala held in November. The event, held nearly every year for at least two decades, raised more than $58,000 recently to fully fund every request listed.

Foundation Director Jana Siminski said the amount available for disbursement has been on the rise the past few years. “It really varies depending on the amount we are able to raise,” she said.

“We’ve made a conscious decision to try to elevate the amount we can give back every year, and to do that we have to raise more money.”

Started in 1984, the Forest Hills Public Schools Foundation has raised more than $1 million for teacher and building programs.

The foundation also is working to raise $500,000 for a newer initiative, called Destination Innovation, earmarked for advanced teacher training.

CONNECT

FHPS fall 2015 grant list: A complete list of fall 2015 individual teacher grants

SOS by school: A complete list of projects funded through this year’s gala by school

Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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