The most valuable investment we can make is in our children’s education. When we make education a priority, we give our children opportunity.
— Martin O’Malley
By Beth Deluzain
Where do you look when there simply aren’t enough funds to support all the exciting ideas that educators have for serving students? We hope the answer for local teachers and staff is the Bay Education Foundation, Inc.
Where do you look when you are an individual or business that wants to support education while ensuring that your donation goes directly to classrooms in schools or to help address unmet needs? Again, we hope the answer for our community is the Bay Education Foundation.
“We are trying hard NOT to be Bay County’s best kept secret,” laughs Larry Carroll, current Bay Education Foundation president. “I’m still surprised, though, that a lot of people don’t know about us. We exist to support public school students and employees, and we’ve been around a long time.”
In 1989, school district leaders in Bay County decided to take advantage of an opportunity provided by the Florida Legislature authorizing each county to establish a support organization for public schools. The result was the Bay Education Foundation, which was incorporated in November of that year.
The Bay Education Foundation, Inc., is a 501 (c) 3 direct support organization of Bay District Schools in Panama City, Florida. The mission of the Foundation is promoting excellence in public education, and the Foundation addresses this mission through four major initiatives.
Take Stock in Children
One such initiative is Take Stock in Children, a statewide dropout prevention/college preparation program for students who have the ability, but not the resources, to attend college. Students are selected for the program in grades eight and nine and receive mentoring, monitoring, and other support services throughout high school. Upon successful completion of this program, students receive a college tuition scholarship or tuition assistance for other post-secondary education. Currently, we are serving 114 high school students and nearly 80 college students. More than 120 students have completed the program. We are proud of the engineers, social workers, nurses, teachers, airline pilots, business men and women, college professors, youth ministers, and technical workers. We also boast about a television producer, a lawyer, and a military officer. These Take Stock alumni are giving back to our community, and we still get excited when they buy homes and start families.
Grants for Great Ideas
Teachers and other educators compete annually for $1,000 grants which are awarded to support innovative classroom projects designed to improve academic achievement. These projects focus on literacy, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) disciplines, exceptional student education, and the arts. For the 2021-22 school year, the Foundation underwrote projects at thirty-one schools for a total investment of $129,000.
Greener Grass Tuition Assistance
The Foundation provides small tuition assistance grants to help with professional development in the district. Grants range from $100-$500 and are intended to encourage employees to improve their skills, especially in critical teacher shortage areas. About thirty employees are assisted through this program annually.
Awards of Excellence
The Bay Education Foundation provides partial support for an array of programs designed to recognize, reward, and/or showcase excellence in education and administers a number of graduating senior scholarships. The programs include student events like the Best of Bay Art Show, science and social studies fairs, etc., and employee recognition events. For the first time this year, the Foundation sponsored a Rookie Teacher of the Year award, designed to recognize promising early career employees.
How can you help? Make a donation! All the initiatives cited previously depend upon the generous support of individuals, businesses, civic clubs, etc. In most cases, we are able to double your donation with matching funds for Take Stock scholarships and grants.
Become a mentor! We always need mentors for our Take Stock students. The commitment to invest time in a student pays BIG dividends for the student and you.
Participate in our fundraising events!! We host three fundraisers each year: Golf Fore Education (September 17, 2022), Strides for Scholars 5K (February 18, 2023), and Arts Alive (March 25, 2023).
For more information, please contact the Bay Education Foundation at (850) 767-4110 or visit us at www.bayeducationfoundation.org.
Mentors can find the link to the mentoring application on the “Mentors” page of our website. Teachers can check our website in mid-August for information and links to the grant application portals. That link is: www.bayeducationfoundation.org.