This past spring, 12 of Toms River Regional’s 18 schools wrote lengthy proposals to make over classrooms with the hope of winning a biannual Model Classroom grant from the OceanFirst Foundation. The foundation hosted an awards banquet the evening of Oct. 2 at the Eagle Oaks Country Club in Farmingdale, NJ to recognize applicants and announce its 2018 winners.
Five of the 25 award recipients went to TRRS schools, the most of any district. Beachwood Elementary, East Dover Elementary, Joseph A. Citta Elementary, Silver Bay Elementary, and Intermediate South each received $10,000 to realize their dream projects.
“This year colleagues from neighboring districts in the three counties really upped their game,” said Marc Natanagara, Assistant Superintendent. “That makes me especially proud of the ideas each of these schools developed and the effort they put into their applications.”
Natanagara worked with Tech Supervisor Tiffany Lucey and Grant Writer Mike Kenny to help each school craft winning applications, largely by getting to the core of their inspiration and helping them clearly articulate it. These entries included spaces for virtual reality, social emotional learning, renovating old technology, and real world based literacy.
The Model Classroom Grant Program was designed to support “bold and innovative schools that have the vision, creativity, and desire to develop model classrooms for learning,” according to the Foundation’s grant statement.
In a message to grant applicants, OceanFirst Chairman Christopher D. Maher said, “We understand the critical role the classroom plays in a student’s academic and lifelong success and also the challenges presented by limited resources. That’s why we’re proud to partner with local schools and to contribute the resources needed to develop creative solutions that help students and teachers succeed in the classroom and beyond the school walls.”
Due to recent massive cuts in state aid, the district has been especially assertive in seeking grants and partnerships. In addition to clearly articulating a real need, staff have demonstrated consistently the ability to use grant money to bring opportunities to Toms River Regional students that can be found in few other educational institutions, and in replicable ways.
In 2016, two district schools, North Dover and East Dover Elementary, earned OceanFirst Model Classroom grants. In 2017 TRRS was one of only 15 educational institutions nationwide to receive a Steelcase Education classroom renovation grant, which it used to convert a room at High School North into an Active Learning Center. An investment from the H. Hovnanian Foundation enabled the district to create flexible tech-infused spaces at High Schools East and South-- an Anatomy & Physiology Lab and a Business and Real Estate Incubator. And last year, the US Office of Naval Research provided $260,000 for the district to create a model for cross-disciplinary computer science instruction that is unlike that found anywhere.
No one left the awards ceremony a loser; OceanFirst Foundation awarded each school that did not win a grant a $500 Amazon gift card. By evening’s end, 12 TRRS schools had earned a combined $53,500 in funding that will impact students for many years to come.
About OceanFirst Foundation
Since its founding in 1902, OceanFirst Bank has built a solid reputation and legacy as a good neighbor and responsible corporate citizen. The Bank’s strong commitment to helping families, organizations, schools and communities throughout central and southern New Jersey meet their financial needs has spanned several generations reaching new heights in 1996 with the creation of OceanFirst Foundation.
Made possible by a one-time endowment of $13.4 million approved by OceanFirst Bank depositors, OceanFirst Foundation provides grants to organizations that meet community needs within the OceanFirst Bank footprint. The Foundation has invested more than $36 million in community organizations including more than $1.9 million in grants to local schools to create high performing library and media centers, for green initiatives and for the creation of model classrooms.
For more information visit http://www.oceanfirstfdn.org/.