Enfield foundation strives to enhance education

By Calla Vassilopoulos - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Thu., Sep. 5, 2013
The Connecticut Invention Convention, to which Enfield Foundation for Excellence in Education plans to send students this academic year. Courtesy photos. - Contributed Photo

Enfield students have returned to school for another year, and for some this may be just another year, but for the innovative learners interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), this year will be their chance to become an inventor, thanks to the Enfield Foundation for Excellence in Education (EFEE).

Beginning this school year, the EFEE has collaborated with the Connecticut Invention Convention to create an after-school program for students. EFEE president Shannon Grant said the local invention convention activity will be open to grades three through eight and will continue through April. At the end of the program, students can participate in a district-wide competition and have the opportunity to move on to the state competition at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

“It's so wonderful to see these kids experience things they otherwise wouldn't be able to experience,” said Grant. “As education is getting more costly to our community, it's becoming more and more important that these types of programs are made available to them.”

The EFEE has also begun a student grant initiative this year, which offers mini-grants to Enfield students working with a sponsor, according to Grant. The first recipient was a gifted and talented JFK Middle School student who created a family fitness program called “Run For Your Lives, Enfield.” The project consists of a series of runs throughout the year designed to encourage families to exercise together.

The EFEE began with two mothers, Shannon Grant and Maureen Brennan, in 2009, as a teacher grant program. Throughout the years, the non-profit organization has opened the grants to parents or town residents working with a faculty member, businesses, local government body and community-based organizations in Enfield.

“We felt our school district could use some additional enrichment activities outside of what the school funding could provide to our educators,” said Grant. “We are also very involved in the schools, and we felt the students would really benefit from something a little less traditional in the classrooms.”

The grants from the organization are awarded for up to $1,000. Some of the projects funded in the last few years include CLICK, a computer software and licensing program known as Comic Life Integrated with Core Knowledge, and themed literacy kits for the library called Discovery Packs.

Amanda Furey, an elementary school teacher, was awarded a grant to purchase the CLICK software for all nine elementary schools in Enfield and licenses for the three elementary-level technology integration specialists. The computer program offers students creative writing exercises using comic books with complex story lines.

“I am really beginning to see that we are making a difference in the classroom,” said Grant. “I was in the car with my daughter a couple of months ago and she was talking about the CLICK program on my computer. She said, 'You know, your program isn't quite as advanced as the program we have at school.'”

To help support the EFEE, Red Robin will be donating 10 percent of each dinner bill at the Enfield location on Tuesday, Sept. 10, from 5  to 8 p.m.

The foundation will also participate in Enfield Public Schools Family Day on the Town Green by selling gently-used sports and music equipment at “tag sale” prices.

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