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Community First Cares Foundation and Investing in Kids Award Champions for Children Grants to St. Johns County Teachers

Grants support classroom innovation not funded through traditional budgets

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Dec. 20, 2018 – The Community First Cares Foundation, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit philanthropic arm of Community First Credit Union, announces it has awarded the inaugural Champions for Children classroom innovation grants in conjunction with Investing in Kids (INK!). Ten grants were awarded to the winning St. Johns County teacher 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.

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 kindergartners 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.

“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.”

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, INK! leads efforts to directly benefit the educators and students within the St. Johns County School District. Our programs and events strive to provide the tools and resources that are necessary to help each child reach their full potential. Since 1994, Investing in Kids (INK!) has led the effort to cultivate success for students and teachers through funding, initiatives, and inspiration.

“This partnership allows teachers to infuse creativity into the lessons,” said Donna Lueders, executive director of INK! “These innovative projects provide students an opportunity to have an “aha” moment.”

The Community First Cares Foundation is the charitable arm of Community First Credit Union. Since its founding nearly five years ago, it has granted more than $300,000 to deserving organizations on the First Coast.

The Community First Cares Foundation, founded in 2013 by Community First Credit Union, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) community foundation that grants funds to improve the quality of life in North Florida.  The foundation 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. The Community First Cares Foundation makes contributions to non-profit organizations that serve the communities on the First Coast. For more information, visit or call 904-371-8090.


Grant Recipient: Monique Burr Foundation

Monique Burr Foundation Teen Safety Matters Program

A new program, MBF Teen Safety Matters™, was recently launched by the Monique Burr Foundation for Children to prevent child abuse and bullying among teen-agers. 

Poverty is a silent epidemic in our schools, and many issues with attendance and academics are directly related to students not having clean clothes, shoes that fit, or the supplies they need to be successful in school. Students want to feel good about themselves when they come to school, and we want to help them have everything they need to learn. We could not have opened our first on-site classroom-sized Giving Closet without this funding and volunteer support.

Jennifer Smith, DCPS teacher and Founder of The Giving Closet Project.

Community First Cares

637 N Lee St. (P.O. Box 2600)
Jacksonville, FL 32232

Phone: (904) 371-8090

Email: [email protected]

Have a Special Project?

The Community First Cares Foundation supports projects that place a special emphasis on activities that improve financial literacy, enhance the quality of our educational system, upgrade the health and welfare of our community and help the underserved citizens improve their quality of life.  We offer funding to help our community partners implement these initiative right here on the First Coast.