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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Kenneth Westgate, Jr., Judy Kelly, Karen Jamann, Dolores Fartel, and Marisa Strunk (2018)

Hellertown, PA
St. Theresa School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Little Green Fingers,” focuses on creating a garden project to provide younger students at St. Theresa School plant science experience as an integral part of their Science Technology Religion Engineering Arts and Mathematics (STREAM) program. With the Voya grant, the team will provide greenhouse outdoor gardens as well as an indoor hydroponic growing station. Students involved in the project will start plants from seeds and seedlings, create greenhouse soil mixes and learn about soil and water conservation and soilless plant growing techniques. Students will monitor the use of natural fertilizers and water needed for healthy growth and will be responsible for managing the environments for the harvesting of the greenhouse materials.

Eric Gopen (2018)

Allentown, PA
Parkland High School

Gopen’s innovative teaching idea, “Emergency Medical Technician,” focuses on providing students with the opportunity to earn a national registry EMT certification that can be used to work on an ambulance anywhere in the country. With the Voya grant, students will learn about the human body and how to handle medical and traumatic emergencies. They will learn about the Emergency Medical Services system by becoming an active participant and will apply classroom knowledge in the field by treating actual patients. Class lectures will provide the base on which students will build their emergency treatment skills. Psychomotor skills practice will teach students to appropriately touch and communicate with the patients they will encounter in the real world, riding along with certified EMTs and paramedics as well as meeting with people in special populations outside of the general public.

Rosemary Miner, Catherine Marcotte and Judith Russell (2018)

Central Falls, RI
Nowell Leadership Academy

This team’s innovative teaching idea, “Health and the Human Form,” focuses on creating a new multidisciplinary anatomy and physiology course for the students at Nowell Leadership Academy by partnering with several local and state resources to provide students with the opportunity to earn high school science, art, and health credits. In addition, students will be able to complete a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program at the local community college and have an opportunity to take the state’s CNA licensing exam. Students involved in the project will complete dissections led by local Brown Medical School students and receive art lessons from a Rhode Island School of Design art professor. In addition, they will participate in yoga, ballet, and hip-hop classes as well as receive dietitian learnings from a local hospital fair. With the Voya grant, the team will be able to support each of these experiences to help prepare the students to pass the state licensing exam and offer them a lifetime CNA certification.

John Butler (2018)

Warwick, RI
Village Green Virtual Charter School

Butler’s innovative teaching idea, “Environmental Monitoring,” focuses on helping the students at Village Green Virtual Charter School to gain the knowledge, skills and experience to address pressing environmental challenges in the community. With the Voya grant, Butler plans to combine a new mobile learning platform with environmental quality measuring instruments for use in the classroom and on location, allowing students to experience relevant workforce technology. Students involved in the project will collect data such as date, climate, and pollutants to design, build, and test new tracking devices. They will analyze data and generate reports to share with the community. Through the project, students will learn about team-work, collaboration, and problem-solving, all of which Butler believes are essential components to prepare them for their futures and potential careers.

Marc Turner, Kason Dalton, Tamara Jones, and Makesia Sumpter (2018)

Columbia, SC
Dent Middle School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “The Dent Conservation Corps,” focuses on restoring the relationship between students and the environment within Columbia, SC. According to the team, the context for conservation will be taught through social studies classes as students study the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Progress Administration and their efforts in South Carolina. Students involved in the project will use various documents and excerpts to visit CCC projects in the region. Student groups will then identify local conservation problems through guest experts and research, create a formal presentation to a panel of their plans and create an associated proposed budget to support it. This provides students with a voice to implement their proposals. With the Voya grant, the committee on the panels will choose as many proposals for successfully completing the project.

David Fralix (2018)

Mt. Pleasant, SC
Wando High School

Fralix’s innovative teaching idea, “Real Estate Course,” focuses on creating an innovative real estate course for the seniors at Wando High School during their last semester. The goal of the project is to provide a career and professional track for students to become licensed real estate agents. Fralix created the idea of this project in response to student demand and went through the licensing process to become a licensed agent himself. With the Voya grant, Fralix will be able to develop a sustainable curriculum that would also satisfy the requirements for a proper real estate license. If the pilot program is successful, the program will also be considered at other schools across the district and state.

Cindy Seckel, Jermaine White, James Crawley, Iasha Lee, and Donald Amis (2018)

Sumter, SC
Bates Middle School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Ages of Simple Machines,” focuses on studying the Medieval Era and the use of machinery during this time period. With the Voya grant, students at Bates Middle School will construct simple medieval machines using interactive simulations that power inquiry and understanding, requiring students to graph, measure, compare, predict and prove. They will investigate and create "smart", modern day programmable machines. New connections will be made across the curriculum and the ages as the simple machines of the past are shown to relate to the "smart" machines of today. The knowledge learned through the program will provide a greater understanding of how things work, provide a foundation for design mechanisms and teach the principles of mechanical design.

Cecelia Gorder (2018)

Estelline, SD
Sharon F. Delzer Elementary School

Gorder’s innovative teaching idea, “Taking Reading to New Heights,” focuses on building comfortable reading spaces for the students at Sharon F. Delzer Elementary. With the Voya grant, Gorder plans to construct a reading loft, with the help of the wood shop teacher, local veterans, community helpers, and older students. No other classroom in the school has had a reading loft, a fun and exciting tool to encourage reading. According to Leake’s research, studies indicate high-quality classroom environments help children feel safe, secure, and valued. As a result, self-esteem can increase and students can become motivated to engage in the learning process. As such, the reading loft will become a highly motivating tool.

Jarred Amato (2018)

Nashville, TN
Maplewood High School

Amato’s innovative teaching idea, “Project LIT Community,” focuses on empowering students at Maplewood High School to flood the school and local community with culturally relevant books and champion daily reading to increase literacy with the local community. By providing access to this library of reading material, Amato hopes that the new and relevant books will allow all students to see themselves in the pages, communicate through each individual’s voice and empower students to engage with the community in a meaningful way. With funds from the Voya grant, Amato aspires to expand his vision by planning larger literacy events each year such as an author visit including more than 600 students from a dozen Nashville schools.

Tomey McGowen (2018)

Taylor, TX
Taylor High School

McGowen’s innovative teaching idea, “Ducks Educational Tools,” focuses on providing the students at Taylor High School the ability to communicate proficiently in American Sign Language (ASL). Students involved in the project will develop an understanding of the nature of language, including grammar and culture. They will engage in a variety of signed exchanges that provide information, expressing feelings and preferences while exchanging ideas and opinions. With the Voya grant, McGowen is able to purchase the necessary tools to help the students achieve their optimum potential. Through mastering ASL, McGowen hopes students will enhance their interpersonal communication skills, empathy, and appreciation of others who might be different from themselves.