Led by those in the College Station High School and A&M Consolidated High School drum line and cheer squad, members of the College Station ISD Education Foundation and school district surprised teachers throughout the district with thousands of dollars in grant on Wednesday.

By the end of the day, the Education Foundation’s annual Grant Patrol had handed out 60 grants totaling $185,372. The grants will help 135 teachers, representing all 19 College Station campuses.

“The Education Foundation makes so many things possible that wouldn’t be possible without all of their amazing support,” Oakwood Intermediate School fifth grade English-language arts teacher Jessica Lochte said. “We can do things; we can give kids opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Lochte was one of seven teachers who received a LEADS Ambassador Grant. With $7,000 among the intermediate and middle school teachers, the grant will help fund supplies and equipment for students’ ideas to help their campus community through the LEADS organization.

As they learn about leadership and the importance of community service, Lochte said, the students who were selected after an application and interview process will have to come up with a campus-wide project.

Before moving forward with their end-of-the-year projects, she said, the students will have to submit their own mini grants, which will be distributed from the $7,000 in Education Foundation funds.

Noting how much of their personal money teachers put into their classrooms, A&M Consolidated High School Principal Gwen Elder said the grants give each recipient an opportunity to do more than they already do.

The grants, which are funded through donations, show the community’s support of the district and the teachers.

“Oftentimes, we use resources that are provided at the district level, but when you can have resources available to support classroom needs, we’re truly thankful, and we’re blessed,” Elder said. “We’re blessed to be in a position and in a community that values education.”

Education Foundation Board President Heather Simmen called it exciting to be able to see the students who will benefit from the grants handed out at each of the district’s campuses.

The foundation’s mission is “to provide resources to inspire learning, enrich teaching and recognize the accomplishments of our students and teachers.”

“Grant Patrol, to me, wraps that all up into one because we’re rewarding teachers for thinking outside of the box and applying for these innovative grants that are going to inspire these kids to learn through different mediums,” Simmen said.

The grants range from establishing in-class bowling lanes and setting up large chess and checkers sets in the playgrounds to encouraging music performances in the community and providing virtual reality firefighting experiences.

Noting the variety, Simmen said, there is no telling what might spark a student’s excitement or interest in a subject. Playing with LEGOs could inspire a student in elementary school to become an engineer.

“There’s so many great ones this year,” Education Foundation Executive Director Teresa Benden said about the grants.

At River Bend Elementary School, the district’s newest campus, Enrichment Specialist Karin Romero received $1,983 to purchase two large garden chess sets and a large checkers set for students to use during recess.

“This is a game that you can play in any language,” she said. “You don’t have to speak the same language. Wherever you go, you can play chess. If somebody knows how the pieces move, you don’t have to have any language at all.”

At College View High School, students in the school’s Fire Academy will have access to a virtual reality training simulator that will allow them to feel and experience being a firefighter in a safe, protected environment. The $5,560 grant will purchase a pack that heats the body, a mask that limits the wearer’s vision, and a hose reel that feels like opening a hose line.

“This right here is phenomenal,” said Charles Almanza, one of the Fire Academy’s instructor and TEEX training specialist. “It’ll actually bring the things they’re used to technology-wise and make that function something better that they can absorb the material.”

Benden, who recently celebrated 10 years as the Education Foundation’s director, said she gets emotional every year during Grant Patrol.

“It’s so humbling to realize how much support we have from our community,” she said.

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