Achieve hands out grants for dogs, darkrooms and cooking

Photo Courtesy of Achieve Foundation
Rich Cutrona, center, with members of the Photo Club. Cutrona received a grant to enable students to develop color photos.

MAPLEWOOD — Therapy dogs, a new darkroom, cooking classes, and the next phase of an environmental project, are just a few of the programs that have been awarded funding through the Achieve Foundation’s Fall 2023 Educator Grant Awards.

In total, checks were delivered across the District’s schools to fund 22 different projects this fall.

“These grants illustrate the scope of Achieve’s celebrated grants program, which twice a year awards money to teachers and administrators to enhance public education in the district,” said Eileen Collins Neri, executive director of the Achieve Foundation. “We greatly appreciate our educators’ dedication and creativity, and we are proud to provide resources to help them realize their vision of engaging their students.“

Irene Langlois, president of the Achieve Foundation’s Board of Trustees. said “we would be remiss if we didn’t thank our many donors to the foundation.”

Ronald G. Taylor, superintendent of the South Orange and Maplewood School District, said the district appreciates the partnership and support of the Achieve Foundation.

Columbia High School
• Art Teacher Richard Cutrona has been awarded nearly $5,000 to turn an unused photography room into a darkroom that will enable students in the perennially-popular photography class to develop color photographs.
• Therapy dogs will return to provide emotional support to students and staff three times during this school year, thanks to a $600 grant awarded to CHS Social Worker Jennifer Easton.
• CHS band members will have monthly master classes with college music professors, art students will have a workshop at the Montclair Art Museum; music technology students will get a new studio mixer for live music performances at the high school; and all students will get to attend a mental health assembly given by a popular and effective speaker.

South Orange Middle School
• The courtyard at South Orange Middle School will get a second round of funding, more than $2,600, for a gardening and environmental sustainability project that has engaged students, teachers, and the whole community. The school has also been awarded $1,300 to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with an assembly that will celebrate dances from Spain, Ecuador, and Mexico.
• The foundation also will fund trips into the community for special education students at SOMS; the trips are designed to teach students how to navigate stores, restaurants, and other public spaces.

Maplewood Middle School
• Spanish students at Maplewood Middle School will have access to new e-readers to help them increase their language proficiency and cultural understanding. MMS will also receive funding for a yoga and journaling program to enhance the school’s Social Emotional Learning (SEL) efforts.
Awards At Other Schools
• Grants were also awarded to buy more LGBTQ books for elementary students across the district, and struggling readers at Seth Boyden Elementary School will receive decodable books.
• Speech Teacher Amy Schwinder has been awarded a grant to use cooking as part of speech therapy with her students at Montrose Early Childhood Center, South
Mountain Elementary School, and SOMS.

Professional Development
With the help of an Achieve grant, two special education teachers – one from SOMS and one from MMS – will attend a dyslexia conference in Columbus, Ohio where they will learn current best practices.
Achieve grants are open to all District teachers and administrators. The grants committee, which is comprised of eight volunteer board members, looks for innovative, inclusive projects that will impact students of all kinds and across all grade levels. A second round of funding will be awarded in early February.
The Achieve Foundation of South Orange & Maplewood is a non-profit organization that promotes high quality education that prepares South Orange-Maplewood School District students for the future. Since 1999, Achieve has invested over $4.5 million for programs that support public education.