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Congratulations to all of our Voya Unsung Heroes winners. Each year, 100 finalists receive $2,000 while three of them are selected as Top Winners to receive additional grants of $25,000, $10,000, and $5,000. You can find winners for your state or for a specific year using the controls below.

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Anthony Verbsky (2017)

Highlands Ranch, CO
Highlands Ranch High School

Verbsky’s innovative teaching idea, “The Drone Project,” focuses on developing a curriculum that encompasses the application of Calculus III, Differential Equations, and Drone Science to real-world issues. The Voya grant will provide students the resources needed to take on a variety of application projects, including mapping and calculating the energy of a human blush, surveying heat emissions from buildings, and analyzing changing reservoir water levels, and many others. Verbsky and his team believe that the program offers an early exposure to modern technological applications which offers students the opportunity to explore their interests and future career paths in advanced technical fields, including electrical engineering, aerodynamics, and thermography.

Danielle Rudl, Jessica Cruff and Deb Farias (2017)

Brookfield, CT
Huckleberry Hill Elementary School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Brookfield Parent Press,” focuses on developing a parent-run publishing company that will bring student work to final publication in a hard-covered book format. In Writers Workshop, students use informational writing, research, math and science skills to create an original text. Once finished, members of the Brookfield Parent Press will bind the completed books. Students will be able to share the final products with their families at an ‘Authors’ Night’ event at school, at the local senior center, and at the local public library. Rudl and her team believe that establishing this organization will motivate authorship, involve parents, celebrate student work, provide an opportunity to share beyond the classroom, and engage with the community.

Michael Oberly and Dr. Robert Ferrell (2017)

Middletown, DE
Louis L. Redding Middle School

Oberly’s and Ferrell’s innovative teaching idea, “Stratosphere Project,” focuses on implementing a meteorology-based engineering project where students launch a weather balloon into the stratosphere, take data and retrieve it. High Altitude Ballooning (HAB) projects offer students a unique and exciting way to experience engineering. Through this assignment, they will learn how to utilize GPS tracking, design and insulate hardware for the flight, measure precise weights, and calculate flight paths. Equally important, this project also provides student groups creative, collaborative, problem-solving and leadership opportunities that teach them how to embrace teamwork and communication among themselves, as well as with the larger community.

Kimberly Hammaker (2017)

North Palm Beach, FL
The Conservatory School at North Palm Beach

Hammaker’s innovative teaching idea, “A Magazine by Kids, for Kids,” focuses on creating a writing community within the Conservatory School through the creation of a school magazine. Blending a vast variety of skills into one process and final product, this project is an example of project-based learning, a teaching approach that is increasing across the country due to its real world applications. The creation of the school magazine will provide students with a platform to use their voice in an educational manner. Students involved in the program will draft, revise, edit, publish, share, curate and critique content as they work on the magazine. This project will primarily seek to strengthen informative, argumentative and narrative writing skills. In addition, the class magazine will lead to independent research on a variety of topics such as science, history, literature, current events, technology and social issues.

Jerad Dampson (2017)

Pace, FL
Pace High School

Dampson’s innovative teaching idea, “Sports Journalism Upstart,” focuses on providing an environment for students interested in sports broadcasting where all participants will have an opportunity to connect happenings at Pace High School with the local community. Students involved in the project will be placed in a sports newsroom-like environment where they will be placed into positions divided by sport, platform and task. This could include camera operations, field reporters, news desk directors, graphic arts, website management and so on. Although many schools in the area have been exposed to a multimedia class for school events, there is no current focus on sports news and coverage exclusively. Dampson’s program will provide that platform for students.

Todd Brown, Mark Fulghum, Lynore Fontec, Ryan Lee, Ashley Moody, Laura Munson and Pardis Sabeti (2017)

Sarasota, FL
Sarasota Military Academy Prep

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Outbreak!,” focuses on challenging students to solve a real-world simulated infectious disease outbreak – to understand the impact it has on a global community. Sarasota Military Academy cadets will partner with other schools and be immersed in a multiple campus-wide infectious disease outbreak in which students will serve as different affected populations, including government officials, triage doctors and the media. The scenario will mimic the historical and contemporary spread of an infectious disease in which the various groups will have to work together against the clock to stop the contagion before it kills the general population of the school campuses. Brown and his team believe that by exposing students to the worldwide problems associated with coping with infectious disease outbreaks, it will heighten society's ability to effectively manage future outbreaks – while developing students’ investigative, communication and risk taking skills.

Timothy Brown, Eddy Martinez and William Terry (2017)

Boynton, FL
SouthTech Academy

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “STEM-ing the Gap Between Education and Career Readiness,” focuses on providing Career Technical Education (CTE) students with modern technology and resources that were not previously available to these individuals.  After implementing and developing their skills in various areas through the use of virtual reality tools, students will create "do-it-yourself” style videos with modern professional HD cameras to demonstrate their unique and impressive skillsets. This will provide students with a digital video portfolio of their capabilities for sharing with prospective employers, post-secondary institutions and scholarship organizations. Brown and his team believe this program will prepare students to enter the workforce by teaching workplace-appropriate behaviors and will allow them to participate in job shadowing programs, apprenticeships and a variety of interview opportunities for beginning their careers.

Sheila Harmony, Jana Czerwonky, Tamara Rossi and Kelli Sinclair (2017)

Duluth, GA
Coleman Middle School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Coleman Biosphere,” focuses on the creation of a bio-dome that will provide further insight into architecture and art through design. The bio-dome will also provide an environment for a greenhouse to introduce sustainable agriculture practices. Utilizing the energy systems created, students involved in the program will be able to power aquaculture-based farmed systems known as "aquaponics" and apply the knowledge learned through their research to ultimately produce food through this sustainable agriculture. With this, the students will also be able to solve a real-world problem by providing food to the members of the community in need.

Monica Alicea (2017)

Marietta, GA
Cheatham Hill Elementary School

Alicea’s innovative teaching idea, “Serving 4 Cause, Farm 2 Table,” focuses on hosting a dinner to benefit the Must Ministries “Save it Forward” program. The school’s staff is invited to eat a meal prepared by their students at the Kitchen Kids Café. Diners pay for dinner with a bottle of laundry detergent, which is donated to Must Ministries. Through this experience, students not only learn how to cook, but also gain knowledge about hunger and homelessness in Georgia. With the Voya grant, Alicea hopes to expand her project by purchasing gardening equipment that will enable her students to grow produce for families in need.

Nancy Klausner (2017)

Atlanta, GA
Harper Archer Middle School

Klausner’s innovative teaching idea, “Geek It Up With STEM,” focuses on introducing students to STEM-based careers and encouraging achievement in Mathematics, Science and Reading. Program participants will be given computer literacy training, coding classes and hands-on workshops related to STEM-based fields by professionals who are currently in these careers. Once members of the Geek Squad become experts, they will begin to provide technology service, computer literacy training, coding workshops and classes to the student body and teachers, increasing computer literacy throughout the school. Since most of her students are below the poverty line and cannot afford expensive STEM-based camps and programs, Klausner hopes this project will reduce performance gaps among disadvantaged students by giving all students an equal opportunity to learn about STEM-based fields.