After completing the Education Foundation’s Match Challenge, Lake Forest Elementary has their new mascot.
The challenge gives Alachua County schools the opportunity to post “projects” up to $1,500 on its Find It and Fund It website. The school is then required to collect half of the requested amount through donations from the community, after which the foundation funds the remainder.
Lacy Redd, principal of Lake Forest, said the school was the first to meet its goal. She wrote a grant requesting funds to purchase a dolphin costume to use as the school’s mascot.
After renting the costume for meet-the-teacher-day and the first day of school, she said it was a great way to stimulate the kid’s excitement.
“I see Albert and Alberta [University of Florida mascots] and all that they do to excite kids, so I thought, ‘Why couldn’t we have our own dolphin?’ ”
Redd advertised the grant on her Facebook page and had the first $600 funded by family and friends in two weeks, and the foundation matched the amount for a total of $1,200.
Jack James, a former coworker of Redd when she served as principal at Newberry Elementary, said he was following the funding progress on her Facebook page. When the goal was almost reached, James said he was able to contribute the remaining amount with his donation.
“This was a way for me to directly affect the kids and know my money wasn’t going elsewhere,” James said. “Learning should be fun, and by having something like this [costume], it helps make the whole environment more fun.”
The Education Foundation website says it encourages” individuals, organizations and businesses to invest in the creativity of a teacher to bring amazing learning experiences to their students.”
Redd said they want to the dolphin to be a female named Diamond, complete with a “blinged out” sequined bow and tutu. The costume has already been ordered.
Diamond will periodically visit classrooms and encourage kids who meet their academic goals, while also reinforcing the fact that hard work pays off. Redd said she believes the addition will help Lake Forest’s transformation to a friendly, positive environment.
Rachel Stimler, program director for the foundation, said that this is the foundation’s first year using the Match Challenge as a kickoff, and she’s already seen a lot more people get involved.
“There probably would never be enough money to fund all the grants, but this is a way for the community to come alongside [schools] and help,” Stimler said.
Other grant requests submitted by schools in the area include items such as iPads, end of the year trips and a class library. Requests range from about $100 to $1,500.
At press time, eight schools requesting funding are listed on the website.
Donors can continue to help fund teacher’s projects until Sept. 5 when the Match program ends. Stimler said that grant requests will stay up on the site so the community can contribute until the end of the school year.
You can find this year’s grants and fund them at http://finditfunditflorida.com/alachua.