- Desert Ridge Junior High
Gilbert Education Foundation honors GPS students, teachers and staff
A joyous celebration took place inside the auditorium of Mesquite Junior High. Graduating seniors, high school students, teachers and staff were awarded for their commitment to academic excellence and community service. The Gilbert Education Foundation (GEF) held its annual Scholarship and Varsity Letter in Volunteerism Awards last month. More than two dozen GPS students and staff were celebrated by their families, friends, classmates and colleagues. GPS Superintendent Dr. Shane McCord was there cheering them on, along with members of the Governing Board and the Town of Gilbert.
“Congratulations to all of our honorees,” Dr. McCord said.
A number of scholarships ranging from $500 to $2,000 were given to students to help support their education and career goals after graduation. A special scholarship called “Thank a GPS Educator” awarded $1,000 to a student and $1,000 to the teacher who made the biggest impact on their life. This year’s honor went to graduating Highland High School senior Marcus Ortega and his sixth grade teacher, Mr. Stephen Salamon from Towne Meadows Elementary. Salamon is retiring from GPS after the school year.
“Having the opportunity to learn from Mr. Salamon was truly a privilege. I matured more under his instruction than I ever had prior, and I know that because of his guidance I have become a better person,” Ortega said in his essay.
Ortega is planning to attend Arizona State University, where he will study biochemistry. GPS high school students were also given Varsity Letters in Volunteerism. High school students can earn one for every 200 hours of volunteer work completed starting the summer going into ninth grade. GEF’s goal is to encourage students to give back to their community while also providing an opportunity for students to earn varsity letters through something other than athletics or academics.
“They can get a total of four of them. The program really promotes volunteerism and provides an opportunity for students to get a letter who normally wouldn’t,” said Theresa Dootson, executive director of the Gilbert Education Foundation.
Several GPS teachers were given awards and scholarships to support their professional development and their classrooms. Brittany Blanckaert of Mesquite Elementary and Performance Academy was honored with the Cyndi M. Wood SPED Award. Dootson said supporting educators in their roles is a critical part of the foundation’s mission.
“We try to help in any way that we can, so that it’s not coming out of the teachers’ pockets. They just do so much,” Dootson said.
The Gilbert Education Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, was established back in 2001. Its mission remains the same; enriching, supporting, and promoting innovation for the students and teachers of Gilbert Public Schools. The foundation is a separate entity from Gilbert Public Schools with its own board of directors and staff. Over the last two decades, GEF has raised and contributed more than $2 million to GPS students, employees and programs, including BeWell and the Employee of the Year celebrations.
“This foundation gives back to the community in a lot of different ways. More than anything, I appreciate that they exist to support Gilbert Public Schools,” Dr. McCord said.
The reach of the Gilbert Education Foundation extends beyond scholarships and grants. The foundation has the S.H.A.N.E. Program (Sharing, Helping and Nurturing Everyone), which focuses on providing social services to GPS students, families, and employees in dire need. GEF works to support STEM education by partnering with local businesses to help fund programs like Project Lead the Way, and the foundation’s innovation grants help alleviate the district’s budget constraints by providing additional innovative learning opportunities for GPS students that might not otherwise be available to them.
For more details on scholarships and programs, visit the Gilbert Education Foundation’s website today!