Published On: Tue, Apr 17th, 2018

Education Foundation Using Grants to Improve Local Schools

By: Michael Demyan

The Education Foundation of Palm Beach County is trying to make a positive change in area schools.

The non-profit organization aims to support the public education system through partnerships and grants, while counting on help from local businesses, so that children are able to reach their highest potential in life.

“Our job is to connect the business community to the world of education,” Education Foundation president and CEO James Gavrilos said. “When you look at all of the hoops that Amazon is making people jump through as they try to get their second headquarters, one that just jumps off the page to me is they want 50,000 trained workers. If you want 50,000 trained workers to open up a headquarters, you better have a first class education system.”

Hundreds of thousands of dollars are put into Palm Beach County school programs every year thanks to the Education Foundation. Gavrilos explained that there are three main buckets of funding that make this possible.

The first is what he calls the large bucket, which offers grants ranging from roughly $40,000-$60,000. The state awards a certain amount of money that is matched dollar for dollar with local dollars. For example, if a school wants to start a program that costs $50,000 and a local funder decided to give $25,000, the Education Foundation could match that amount with state money and the program would be completely funded.

Gavrilos noted that the Education Foundation was able to help out Pahokee Middle School principal Dwayne Dennard, who wished to start a robotics program for his students.

“This man is an absolute hero in our community,” Gavrilos said. “He started a robotics program with the idea that we can take some of these kids and get them thinking about careers in science. We now have 50 kids participating in the robotics program. We really try to fund programs that are created by very innovative and dynamic teachers that are going to touch children and get them to think about careers they would never think about.”

The second bucket is GoTeach, which is funded by the purchases of an education license plate in the state of Florida. It awards grants up to around $1,500 for some smaller projects and during 2017, the Education awarded 45 grants totalling $52,000.

The third source of funding is through Find It Fund It. Teachers are able to go to their website to get funding for their projects through crowdsourcing.

“For lack of a better term, it’s GoFundMe for schools,” Gavrilos said.

Gavrilos is also very excited about the Red Apple Supplies store, which started two years ago in response to teachers using hundreds of dollars of their own money to buy supplies for their students.

The store is currently working with 32 different schools in Palm Beach County so that teachers can grab necessary supplies for the classroom. The supplies come through supply drives from local businesses as well as through donations from places such as Office Depot and the Kids in Need Foundation.

In only the two years since the Red Apple Supplies store started, they have distributed over $200,000 worth of merchandise.

After spending a little less than a decade with Boca Helping Hands, when superintendent Robert Avossa asked Gavrilos to be a part of the Education Foundation, he said he just could not turn it down because of the importance of helping the youth getting the education they need to have a successful life.

“I spent the last eight years of my life at Boca Helping Hands trying to help people who are in poverty,” he said. “What if we could get them before they’re in poverty?”

About the Author

- Michael Demyan is the associate editor and reporter for The Boca Raton Tribune. He is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University where he received a degree in Multimedia Journalism. Twitter: @michaeldemyan

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