Grants help kids do good works

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kids like to do good, but sometimes it's easier when you have a little extra help. That could mean support from a parent, teacher or friend, but it also could be a little financial help in the form of a grant. A grant is an award of money to a person or organization, often for doing something positive or helpful. Here are some grants awarded to local schools and groups for activities done by kids.

Last fall Maury Elementary in Northeast Washington was one of five schools nationwide to get a $5,000 grant in a challenge aimed at encouraging more kids to walk or bike to school. About 1,000 schools participated in the Walk to School Challenge organized by cleaning products manufacturer Green Works and the National Center for Safe Routes to School, said David Kargas, a spokesman for Green Works. Kids earned "footprints" for the time they spent walking or riding a bike to school, and Maury recorded the third-highest number of footprints.

The challenge was a natural extension of Maury's efforts to promote healthful lifestyles. The school lunch menus have been overhauled to be more nutritious; kids have planted gardens; a butterfly garden is planned; and last fall several students won awards at the White House for tracking all their physical activity for six weeks. Also this year, the 288-student school has designated nearby Lincoln Park as a gathering spot on Wednesday mornings, and everyone who goes there then walks to school together. "On nice days it's almost the whole community," said the school's principal, Carolyne Albert-Garvey, who is well known for putting on sneakers and going for a walk at the end of her work day.

"Me and my brother rode our bikes to school" on Wednesday mornings, said Jamari Young, 7, a second-grader at Maury who especially liked riding on the bumpy sidewalks. The challenge may be over, but Jamari is looking forward to warmer weather to "start back up."

Albert-Garvey said the grant will be used for "activities the kids can do related to healthier, greener living." One possibility is buying extra plants for students to install on the school's new green roof. "When you have a lot of volunteers, $5,000 buys you quite a bit."

Also last fall, eight Kids Care Clubs around the Washington area each won $250 grants to carry out community service projects they had designed. The projects included ways to encourage reading, sending care packages to soldiers, conserving energy and offering help to the homeless and hungry.

The 1,800 Kids Care Clubs nationwide are groups of elementary- and middle-school kids who meet each month with an adult leader to do volunteer projects in the community. Last fall, Kids Care Clubs applied for mini-grants from the youth service organization GenerationOn.

One local grant winner was the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science. Because the school doesn't have a library, its Kids Care Club decided to focus on literacy and is using the money to promote the school's book-in-a-bag book-sharing program for students. The money will help pay for monthly award ceremonies for the school's top readers. It also helped pay for a book drive to build the school's library collection.

"We also paid a visit to the Watha T. Daniel library," said club member S. Ellis Cummings, 13, referring to the neighborhood's public library. "We helped organized the books in the kids section and we read to students."

Just goes to show that if kids have ideas for doing good, there are people and organizations out there willing to help.

- Margaret Webb Pressler

© 2011 The Washington Post Company