The Bright Minds Foundation has awarded $14,775 in grants to nine educators in the Howard County Public School System.

The grant program was established to support teachers who create innovative projects and programs so they would not have pay for them out of their own pockets. The mission of the foundation is to provide private money to support Howard County education.


Educators competed for grants in several categories focused on 21st-century learning.

Maddy Halbach, a teacher at the Applications and Research Laboratory, was awarded $2,000 in the financial literacy category for her program, "Investing in Your Future," which encourages middle school students to consider a careers in finance. Funding for that grant was provided by Capital One Bank.

Jennifer Forgnoni, at teacher at Atholton High School, was awarded $2,000 for her project, "Examining Earth's Natural Resources."

Nancy Smith, a teacher at Centennial High School, was awarded $878 for her project, "Renewing Energy Resources."

Both Forgnoni and Smith's programs, submitted under the STEM category, allow students to do real-world testing. Northrop Grumman provided funding for both those grants.

The remaining grants were funded by the Community Foundation of Howard County.

In the information and communications technology literacy category, Deep Run Elementary School kindergarten teacher Carly Norris was awarded $2,000 for her "iPad Mini Kindergarten Classroom Lab." The grant will provide iPads to be incorporated into classroom work.

In the health and wellness awareness category, Waverly Elementary School teacher Ross Chakrian was awarded $2,000 to purchase heart monitors for his "Heart to Heart Monitoring Program." Waterloo Elementary School Principal Michelle Leader was awarded $1,800 for "Try It Fridays," a program designed to introduce students to new food every month to widen their experience of nutritional foods.

At the Homewood Center, Suzanne McMurtray was awarded $2,000 for her program "PHIT: Putting Health In Today," which incorporates vigorous cardiovascular activity into the students' daily routine.

In the category of global and civic awareness, Black Student Achievement Program Specialist Patricia Branner-Pierce was awarded $2,000 to purchase keyboard equipment for the "Piano Youth Summer Music Theory and Music Camp." That program teaches piano to students who participate in BSAP's after-school activities.

Bonnie Branch Middle School teacher Dawn Wrenn was awarded $500 for "Black Saga," the a program that strengthens students' awareness and knowledge of the African-American experience.

To be selected for a grant, the educators had to show how the programs and projects met the principles of the Bright Minds Foundation: equity, equality, education innovation and skills for a lifetime.