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Fannin schools awarded over $46,800 at Ignite Education Award Ceremony

Music, art and drama teacher Ben Sexton paired up with fellow sponsor Cindy Hicks and a team of students to propose a fully functioning theater workshop at West Fannin Elementary School for the Ignite Education Grant ceremony March 21. Sexton and Hicks’ group included Bentley Cole, Ella Lackey, Cooper Mathis, Hailey Stewart, Jonah Strobel and Ella White. They were among three of the Fannin School System winners who took home $14,200 in grant and award monies.

Thunderous applause erupted Thursday evening, March 21, at the third annual Ignite Education Grant Award Ceremony hosted by ETC and The Harrison Foundation where Fannin schools swept in three of four grants awards gaining over $46,800 to support individual school and student led projects.

Nine of the 16 finalists competing for the four $13,500 grants to fund their project proposals came from the Fannin County School System and Mountain Area Christian Academy.

This year’s grants from the event included $10,000 for the projects, $2,500 for the school and $1,000 for the sponsors. In addition, all finalists groups received $700 for helping seed their proposal and support project sponsors.

Grant winners from Fannin included: Ben Sexton and Cindy Hick’s group from West Fannin Elementary School (WFES) including Bentley Cole, Ella Lackey, Cooper Mathis, Hailey Stewart, Jonah Stroble and Ella White; Mary Jean Pace and Sally Crawford’s group from WFES including Kaitlyn Clark, Avery Collis, Isaiah Dell, Isabella Frazier, Mailey Gibbs, Peyton Grindstaff, Benjamin Holsonback, Ashley Kinard, Braxton Lawrence, Logan Long, Easton Mathis, Cayson Mitchell, Veronica Oyster, Jamari Patterson and Joseph Riendeau; and Mark Young’s group from Fannin County Middle School (FCMS) including Collin Bruce, Lucas Kennedy, Olivia McAllister, Emma Pittman, Zechariah Prater, Haven Stiles, Hayden Tucker and Makain Watson.

Designed to energize school efforts in improving overall academic experiences, the Ignite grants and awards help provide needed funds to complete a variety of student-led projects that could not take place without the support from these grants.

Welcoming Emcee Bay Cagle said all judges, made up of community leaders and former educators, review project proposals without knowing which schools are presenting their ideas. Winners are chosen based on five criteria including: ability to have a lasting impact for the school, be educational in some way, create interest in a wide range of students, be innovative and be creative.

Sexton and Hick’s student group project proposal consisted of turning their current Fine Arts Classroom into a fully functioning theater workshop. Sexton, the Music Art Drama (MAD) Scientist at WFES, said using project based learning for the school’s Science Technology Engineering Art & Math (STEAM) units is crucial in enhancing student learning abilities.

Pace and Crawford’s student group Powerful Pollinator Project began back in August when students observed Monarch butterfly activities in their garden. Pace said students soon realized there were many types of pollinators including bats, beetles, bees and birds hard at work in helping to feed humans. With the decline of Monarch butterflies and honey bees, the group wants to design a pollinator park behind the school to observe them at work.

Young’s group from FCMS reached out into the community for their project proposal, hoping to highlight local community military Veterans by interviewing, compiling and writing a book in their honor. The goal of publishing the “untold stories” of these military Veterans would allow the students to then provide a copy to FCMS students, every media center in the school system and every public library in the region.

Other school groups chosen as project finalists included WFES sponsors Tonya Callihan, Kelly Brown, Erica Strobel and Serena Watkins; East Fannin Elementary School (EFES) group led by Paula Hyatt and Brittany Mayfield; WFES sponsor led student group with Charlene Hubbard; EFES sponsor led group led by Sheena Rymer, Gary Baxter and Jarod Potts; MACA led group with Heather Small; and Fannin County High School group led by Suzianne Pass.

“We have something even greater at work here tonight. Making the world a better place by making our communities and schools better by helping, sharing, caring, collaborating and growing,” Cagle said.

Preserving the legacy and vision of Albert E. Harrison and his children, sons John and Doug Harrison and daughter Marianne Bowman, is the goal of the annual Ignite Education grants and awards. Last year Ignite awards and grants given was over $58,000 while this year monies given reached over $65,000.

Cagle said the Ignite Education Grant & Awards Ceremony will take place for the 2019-2020 school year, so they encourage schools to begin brainstorming projects to propose to officials for next year.

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