$17,500 received as a part of three-year grant
As a winner of the AOL Aspires program, Blair received its final grant of $2500 this year, which in addition to the $15,000 it has received in the past two years, has significantly contributed to the funding of programs and instructional materials and the Connections classes.
In 2002, the first year the Connections class was piloted, Academy Coordinator Susan Ragan applied for the $10,000 AOL grant with the help of teachers Vickie Adamson, Joanne Malone, Kenneth Smith, and Anne Wisniewski. "We all collaborated on the different pieces of [the grant]," which included the goals, missions, descriptions and time lines for completion for the programs, according to Ragan.
Blair received the $10,000 grant, which was renewable for half of the previously-received amount for three years, along with nine other schools in the Washington area. Blair used the award to target "at risk students" in four different programs: Diversity Workshop, Blair Connect, a computer give-away program, Super Leaders, a leadership program, and the pilot Connections classes, according to Ragan.
The next year, the grant writers decided to only fund BlairConnect and the Connections classes with the $5,000 they received. "We looked at our priorities...it was the first year Connections was rolled out to all of the freshmen," said Ragan. "We wanted to supplement [the] classroom experience so that the students would have the materials they needed to be successful in 9th grade."
This school year, the grant writers have used the last allotment to fund only the Connections classes. "Primarily we've used [the grant money] for instructional materials," including inspirational books, such as "The Struggle to Be Strong" by Al Desetta, vocabulary books, study skills books and other workbooks, said Ragan.
In addition, AOL Aspires has presented another valuable experience to Blair students affected by the programs in requesting that they present their use of the grant money at an AOL conference each year. "The Diversity Workshop did an actual workshop with the people from AOL," said Ragan.
Ragan gives most of the credit of receiving the grant to Blair students since AOL came and individually spoke to finalists for the grant, including affected students. "Our write-up got AOL to come to Blair, but it was the students who spoke to them and made the difference in getting the money," she said.
For more information on the AOL Aspires program, click here.
Caitlin Garlow. Caitlin is a second-semester senior at last. Her favorite things include making fun of her homeless sister and hunting down her clothes in other people's closets. More »