St Johns County teachers awarded “Champions for Children” grants

Community First Cares Foundation, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit philanthropic arm of Community First Credit Union, announced to local Historic City News reporters in St Johns County that they have awarded the inaugural “Champions for Children” classroom innovation grants in conjunction with Investing in Kids (INK!). Ten grants that support classroom innovation not funded through traditional budgets, were awarded to the winning St. Johns County teachers in November.

Each grant recipient was awarded $1,000 to support their innovative classroom project. The Community First Cares Foundation provided $10,000 total for this year’s grant cycle. Teachers applied for funding in a competitive application process. A team of judges from INK! and Community First Cares chose the grant recipients. The winners of the grants are entered in the grand prize competition, a $2,500 grant for their classroom project to be awarded at the “Teacher of the Year” event in January 2019.

“Community First Cares is proud to support classroom innovation in St. Johns County,” said Missy Peters, executive director of Community First Cares. “These creative projects will inspire students to learn in ways traditionally-funded curriculums cannot.”


The 2018 grant recipients are:

  • Kristin Arnold at Mill Creek Academy for “Digital Scientists” – an interactive blogging project promoting reading, writing and math.
  • Hilary Fisler at R J. Murray Middle School for “Breakout Boxes” – learning resources that challenge students to apply their classroom knowledge to escape room-type games.
  • Susan Green at Mill Creek Academy for “Read and Hop” – a durable Sit Spot game for kindergarteners to learn high frequency words.
  • Heather Hagy Sebastian Middle School for “STEAM Doodle Bot” – groups of students and community volunteer engineers will build their own robots using their science and math skills.
  • Lynne Kruse at Hickory Creek Elementary for her project “STEMsational Success” – a hands-on, experiential learning program based in reading, math, social studies and science.
  • Cynthia Morrison Pedro Menendez High School for “Pay it Forward” – students will apply the teachings in the novel “Pay it Forward” to their own community through a volunteerism and give-back project.
  • Heather Shreves Wards Creek Elementary School for “Tech Savvy Teaching” – a program to give students tech skills for to solve real-world, everyday math problems like estimating budgets and percentages.
  • Savannah Sims at Pacetti Bay Middle School for “Closing the Gap with IXL” – 70 students will utilize this software program that has been proven to improve math skills.
  • Ryan Sirak Sebastian Middle School for “Drones for Stem” – a drone project aimed at improving three-dimensional movement understanding along with critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving.
  • Hali Worthington at Palencia Elementary “Less Plastic is Fantastic” – fourth graders will research the effects of plastic on our environment and will create signs for local beach access points to educate visits about their plastic footprint in left-behind trash.

Since the inception of Community First Cares Foundation nearly five years ago, it has granted more than $300,000 to deserving organizations on the First Coast.  The Foundation grants funds to improve the quality of life in North Florida and supports activities to improve financial literacy, enhance the quality of our educational system, upgrade the health and welfare of our community and help underserved citizens.


“Our programs and events strive to provide the tools and resources to educators that are necessary to help each child reach their full potential,” said Donna Lueders, executive director of INK!  “This partnership allows teachers to infuse creativity into the lessons.  These innovative projects provide students an opportunity to have an aha moment.”