Rhode Island Foundation Awards Grants for Classroom Innovation to Nearly 100 Providence Teachers

Philanthropists Letitia and John Carter conceived and funded Spark Grants program to engage students and “spark” their interest in academics

Supt. Dr. Susan Lusi with some of the Providence teachers who received Spark Grants from benefactors Letitia and John Carter (center) following the grant announcements.

Supt. Dr. Susan Lusi with some of the Providence teachers who received Spark Grants from benefactors Letitia and John Carter (center) following the grant announcement.

The Rhode Island Foundation announced that Providence teachers will share nearly $100,000 in grants through a program that encourages classroom innovation in urban school districts. 

Conceived by philanthropists Letitia and John Carter, the Spark Grants program was launched last year with $75,000 in awards to Providence third-grade teachers. Based on the results, the initiative was expanded this year to include Central Falls, Newport, Pawtucket and Woonsocket.

“We were impressed by the creativity and impact of last year’s proposals. Third grade is a crucial period in the academic development of children. Widening the reach of the program will put more youngsters on the road to a lifetime of academic achievement,” said Letitia Carter.

Full-time third-grade teachers in any public or charter school in the five communities were eligible to apply for grants of up to $1,000 to fund programs that will engage students through unique experiences and creative learning methods in order to stimulate their interest in academics.

“The Carters are once again promoting change by example. Their vision is giving teachers a remarkable opportunity to be innovative,” said Neil Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation.

Eligible expenses include software licenses, field trips, equipment and other resources that otherwise would not be available in the classroom. Spark Grants are for one-time expenses and cannot provide ongoing funding to sustain projects.

As the largest eligible district, Providence teachers received the majority of the nearly $148,000 in grants that the Foundation awarded. All but 2 of the 21 eligible elementary schools in Providence were awarded funding. In all, 101 teachers will share nearly $96,000 for classroom initiatives.

The proposals range from inviting an artist to help Pleasant View Elementary School students write a narrative version of Cinderella to a year-long character education program at William D’Abate Elementary School, including field trips to the Providence Police and Fire Departments.

“We are so grateful to the Rhode Island Foundation and Letitia and John Carter for these grants. Last year, hundreds of third-grade students across Providence benefitted from their generosity, and we are thrilled that a new group of students will have the same wide range of enrichment experiences this year,” said Providence Schools Supt. Dr. Susan Lusi. “Our teachers are constantly looking for new ways to infuse excitement into learning, and this funding helps them enormously.”

In addition, three Providence charter schools also received funding. The Paul Cuffee School, the Learning Community and Times2 STEM Academy will split $6,000.

Public schools in Central Falls, Newport, Pawtucket and Woonsocket will receive $17,000, $10,000, $13,000 and $1,000, respectively.  In addition, the International Charter School in Pawtucket received $4,000.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. For more information, visit www.rifoundation.org.