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Congratulations to Carol Mickus, Dr. Vanessa Watkins, Mechelle Weddington and Dr. Liss Maynard, a group of educators in the Cobb County School District in Austell, Georgia, who have been selected as the 2016 first place winners! They were presented with their award on October 26, 2016, and now they can put the $27,000 grant to work in the classroom.

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Moving Into Middle Through a Science Portal,” is focused on helping students who attend Clarkdale Elementary School, many who come from low-income households, increase their academic achievement through a successful transition into Cooper Middle School. Through weekly visits and hands-on activities in the middle school’s science lab, elementary students will increase their comfort, confidence and competence in science — while middle school students learn how to become peer mentors. With the help of the students at Cooper Middle School, fifth graders will learn the middle school culture, set up their own science notebooks, participate in labs, and learn how to successfully navigate the middle school science curriculum and the school itself. The $27,000 grant will allow Cooper Middle School to transform its existing science lab into a safe and productive space for the program and extend the hands-on experience that is currently offered. Specifically, the funds will purchase additional equipment, including lab kits, dissection supplies, a Lego table and an interactive white board to expand the program’s robotics offerings for students. As the project grows, the team plans to expand the program to include other elementary schools in the community. 

Previously, Shea Havens-White, Angela Yake, Grant Rogers and Jason Siwek, a group of teachers at Cedarville High School in Cedarville, Ohio, were presented with a $12,000 grant as our second place winners; and DeWayne Mason, Ph.D., a teacher at Patriot High School in Jurupa Valley, California, was presented with a $7,000 grant as our third place winner.

This year marks the program’s 20th anniversary and the competition was stiff. More than 1,350 applications were submitted from across the country. Learn more about the 2016 winning class.

For two decades, and with nearly $5 million in awarded grants, Voya Unsung Heroes has proven to be an A+ program with educators. The program’s “alumni” have inspired success in the classroom and impacted countless numbers of students. 

In looking back at the winning projects from the program’s 20-year history, Voya Financial was able to track some popular trends and compelling concepts that have shaped our country’s education system. Click on the image below to learn more about what types of programs made the grade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voya Unsung Heroes handed out its first awards in 1996 as a way for Voya Financial to demonstrate its commitment to the education community. Grants are given to K-12 educators utilizing new teaching methods and techniques that improve learning.

Each year, educators submit applications for a Voya Unsung Heroes grant by describing projects they have initiated or would like to pursue. Each project is judged on its:

  • Innovative method
  • Creativity
  • Ability to positively influence the students

Each year, 100 finalists are selected to receive a $2,000 grant, payable to both the winning teacher and his or her school. At least one grant is awarded in each of the 50 states, provided at least one qualified application was received from each state. Winners are selected by Scholarship America, a national non-profit educational support and student aid service organization.

Of the 100 finalists, three are selected for additional financial awards: $25,000 for first place; $10,000 for second place; and $5,000 for third place. The top winners are selected by the Educators Advisory Board, consisting of six distinguished educators from across the U.S.

If you or someone you know has an idea for an outstanding educational project, we encourage you to apply for the Voya Unsung Heroes program. Complete the online application today!

Contact Scholarship America via email or by phone at (800) 537-4180. Or ask your local representative for more information. The deadline for applications is April 30. Winners are announced in the fall.