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Unity Foundation of La Porte County has announced the 2013 grant winners from the Teacher Innovation Fund for Michigan City Area Schools.

This is the second year grants are awarded. The permanent endowment fund was started last year by then-Michigan City Mayor Chuck Oberlie and Michigan City Area Schools Superintendent Barbara Eason-Watkins, Ed. D. It provides grants to teachers and professionals at Michigan City High School and the La Porte County Career and Technical Education – A.K. Smith Center. Now those teachers have new and ongoing support for innovation and reaching students in new and exciting ways.

A total of $2,542 will be awarded – which is double the amount from 2012. An increase in grants was possible by the generosity of people who made outright gifts for 2013 awards. The recipients of the Teacher Innovation Fund grants will be recognized at a reception on March 21.They include:

LaReina Valdez, Resources for Reading: $350. The reading resource project will provide additional reading options and materials, including online videos, interactive games and more through Scholastic’s Weekly Reader Action magazine. This award is provided by the Unity Foundation Board of Directors.

Rebecca Sanders, Reading is Everything: $350. A comfortable independent reading area will be created to help boost scores in Read180, geared toward new materials for special education and African American students. This award is provided by the Unity Foundation Board of Directors.

Rory Boone, 3-D Algebra with K-Nex: $350. Students will build five 3-dimensional coordinate plane constructions to provide better understanding of algebra. This award is supported by Michigan City Chamber of Commerce in memory of AK Smith graduate and long time Horizon Bank employee, Joe Mellen.

Andy Jasicki, Preserve Fedder’s Alley: $350. Invasive species will be identified through proper training and removed to help maintain the natural flora and fauna of our dunes. This award is sponsored by Chuck Oberlie.

Lauren Bridges-Santana, Community Garden Feeds Michigan City: $350. Students in the Career and Technical Education Culinary Arts Academy will work with the special needs Facility Maintenance class to plant, cultivate, harvest and serve fresh organic produce through the Woolly Pocket School Garden kit.

Kortney Brennan, Bruce Stahl and Charles Brennan, This…Is…Jeopardy!: $439.95. The teachers will develop an interactive game to help students review for tests and quizzes.

Michael Livovich and Frank Haughee, The Electric Steinbeck Project: $352. Students will utilize classroom computers to create a Glog – a web-based multimedia platform for creative expression of knowledge and ideas – focused on John Steinbeck’s book, Of Mice and Men.

Former Michigan City Mayor, Chuck Oberlie said, “The goal is to build the fund to $100,000 and we are 36% to our goal. Horizon Bank gave a very generous gift of $20,000 in 2011 and 25 other donors have contributed $16,125.

Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins added, “We chose the Unity Foundation so we’ll always be able to support our educators, not just for a few years.” Gifts can be made at any time and in any amount.

Maggi Spartz, president of the Unity Foundation said, “We received 13 applications, double the number from the first year. We are delighted that so many educators took the time to apply. We wish we could fund them all, but funds are still limited.” The Selection Committee was made up of a cross section of educators and community members.

Applications for the 2013-14 grants will be available in the fall. Teachers and teaching professionals are encouraged to contact the Unity Foundation with questions about the process or what types of grant ideas they may submit.

Since 1992, the Unity Foundation of La Porte County has served donors, nonprofits and local communities. As La Porte County’s community foundation, it manages approximately $21 million in assets, administers more than 200 charitable funds, and has distributed nearly $10 million through direct grants and scholarships. The Council on Foundations has deemed Unity Foundation in compliance with all Indiana and national ethical and operating standards for community foundations.

Unity Foundation’s mission is to strengthen La Porte County now and forever by: building permanent endowments; providing leadership; offering philanthropic vehicles for everyone; and, being a catalyst for social and economic vitality. For more information, please visit or call 219-879-0327.

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