GPFPE announces SEED initiative

The Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education shows its appreciation for Grosse Pointe Public School System teachers and staff on a regular basis — by giving them the resources they need to enhance teaching and learning in the district.

Teachers, students and parents have two opportunities each year to apply for grants to support academic programs, instructional materials, or enrichment projects. The GPFPE announced the recipients of its spring grant cycle at the April 26 Board of Education meeting, awarding a total of more than $35,000. Four of the grants were funded through the Lois J. Warden Fund, established to support early learner programs.

In addition to meeting these annual classroom and program needs, GPFPE often seeks to fill a broader need. For example, several years ago it set a goal of supporting every elementary school in the district to become a Leader in Me School. Leader in Me is an evidence-based whole-school transformation program that unites students, teachers and families around a common culture of student empowerment. The GPFPE provided funds for all the needed training, materials and support to implement this program, which is now part of the curriculum in all the elementary schools in the district.

To meet today’s greatest needs, GPFPE Vice President Christie Scoggin announced at the April 26 board meeting a new fund-raising initiative called SEED, which stands for social-emotional encouragement and development. Students, teachers and parents may apply for grants year-round for programs that support the social and emotional health of students and staff in the district.

The idea came up “after all that has happened this past year with the pandemic and the school system,” Scoggin said. GPFPE representatives asked curriculum directors Maureen Bur and Keith Howell what was most “important in the school system right now. They came back with some counselor recommendations and most all of them came under the umbrella of SEED.”

They also addressed needs from around the district, from preschool to high school, Scoggin said.

“Even though our board has educators and a lot of smart people, a lot of involved people, we’re not mental health experts,” GPFPE President Bob Bury said. “What we did is recognize the need. Rather than dictate a specific program, we went to the district and said, ‘You know what the needs are for your students and staff.’”

Supporting students’ social and emotional well-being is not new to GPFPE. Past grants have funded mentoring programs, training and certification of a therapy dog, playground and other equipment geared toward healthy play and stress relief, sensory room equipment, yoga as a restorative practice, and positive behavior programs. Many of these programs overlap with other disciplines, but have a mental health focus.

This is the GPFPE’s first initiative focused directly on supporting students’ mental health.

“One could argue that the needs today are probably higher than they have ever been in a lot of areas,” Bury said.

The goal is to help fund GPPSS programs already in place as well as new ideas focused on post-pandemic social and emotional growth, healing and connections and other health programs.

A wish list of future ideas and programs came directly from GPPSS school counselors. These include professional development, “chill” spaces for staff wellness, restorative practices at all levels, extracurricular clubs to build connections and give purpose, mentoring programs, and the University of Michigan’s TRAILS program. TRAILS, which stands for Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students, is focused on bringing effective mental health care to all students.

A benefit of the SEED program, Scoggin and Bury agree, is that a teacher, counselor, parent or student interested in applying for funding to support a mental health initiative doesn’t have to wait for a grant cycle or apply within a particular deadline, but can submit a one-page application at any point. The amount given will be capped to allow for gifts throughout the year.

GPFPE plans to kick off SEED at its “Be the Beacon” benefit on Thursday, June 3, held on the grounds of the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. Funds raised will go to GPFPE’s grant fund as well as to support SEED.

GPFPE board members view SEED as a multiyear initiative.

“This is not ending,” Scoggin said. “Mental health is at the forefront of everything right now with students and teachers. The need is going to go on.”

Donors may direct their gift to the SEED initiative or other focus area, give an unrestricted donation, sponsor the annual benefit or donate to the GPFPE endowment. The GPFPE also offers the opportunity to give a gift “in honor of” a teacher, administrator or student within GPPSS — a perfect way to conclude Teacher Appreciation Week or the school year.

For more information, visit gpfpe.org or contact Karen Lawrence at (313) 432-3058 or lawrenk@gpschools.org.

The Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education is an independent, not-for-profit organization with the mission of funding extraordinary educational opportunities for the students of the Grosse Pointe Public School System. Since 2007, the GPFPE has provided close to $3.5 million in funding, supporting a diverse roster of programs and projects at every school and grade level across the district.