PEF "Spotlight" Archive

See what's been happening at the Polk Education Foundation!

Sun Trust Foundation funding allows Polk Education Foundation to award $15,000 in grants!

Thank you SunTrust Foundation! Because of your generosity, ten teachers received grants totaling $15,000 to teach financial literacy in their classrooms.

Sun Trust grant winners


Classroom projects include:

Robert Ball, from Auburndale High School, is focusing on budgeting and diversified savings in his Economics class. Graduating seniors will receive jump drives with budgeting information and spreadsheets to use as they go to college.

In a world of purchases made with a swipe of plastic, Deanna Brewer from Berkley Elementary Charter will be working with 1st and 2nd graders to provide an environment for students to be exposed to coins, bills, literature, games, and tools for mastering the important life-skill of using money wisely!

Pam Grant and Pamela Hart from Carlton Palmore are working on a joint project to help first and fifth grade students understand the relationship between earning, spending and saving. Both teachers will use literature, manipulatives and software to get students on the path of becoming financially responsible adults!

Haines City High School's teacher, Broderic Ogzewalla, will use the National FFA Organization guidelines to teacher students the value of raising their own food, keeping accurate records and finding out if a project has a profit or loss. Records kept will include expenses, inventory, labor and income. This real life skill is essential to each student's financial literacy growth.

To battle the increasing lack of experience in money management, Cynthia Kuhlman from Highland City Elementary will be using the Money Doesn't Grow on Debit Cards curriculum to instruct 1st-4th grade students in financial literacy. Fifth grade students will participate in the EverFi Financial Literacy course to research and track corporations investing fictitious funds in a mock stock market investment program, .

Polk Avenue teachers Melissa Kelly and Michelle Counter will be working together across grade levels to introduce a multidisciplinary approach to teaching financial literacy. They have paralleled the 7 habits of highly effective people with 7 habits of financial literacy. In this project, "Are You Ready for a Hurricane?", lessons reflect not only the monetary budgeting and types of economic costs, but also critical thinking skills for planning and realistic experiences for students. Students will create hurricane kits using a budget, deciding what is most essential in case of an emergency.

Rochelle School of the Arts has two financial literacy projects.
Lori Crowley will work with 4th and 5th grade gifted students learning the foundational skills of trading stocks through the Stock Market Game. Theresa McCawley will instruct lessons on "goods and services", "wants and needs", and "saving and spending". Students will set up a 2nd grade market to sell school items such as pencils, pencil toppers, erasers, and $1 Scholastic books. Profits will be used to buy math manipulatives that will encourage spatial reasoning, critical and logical thinking, and problem solving skills. The students will work in the market using their counting skills to collect money and count back change. With this awesome hands on learning, students will understand how to save money for something they may want, collect money, count back change, and understand supply and demand.

There are exciting times ahead for all of the students participating in these diverse classroom projects!

Polk Education Foundation wins Polk Vision's Spirit of Leadership Organization Award

The Polk Education Foundation (PEF) was presented with the fifth annual Spirit of Leadership Polk Award by Polk Vision, on May 20, 2015, during the Leadership Polk Class VIII Graduation Luncheon at The Lake Eva Center in Haines City. Susan Copeland, the PEF’s Executive Director, accepted the award from Sherriff Grady Judd, representing last year’s winner, the Polk County Sherriff’s Department.

Polk Vision award


Leadership Polk is a Polk Vision program that brings together current and emerging leaders from across the county to develop diverse networks of resourceful, informed and proactive leaders who will create a more vibrant county and region.Around 100 alumni attended the event. Two awards are given out by Leadership Polk's Alumni Association each year, one to an organization and one to an individual.

The Spirit of Leadership Polk Award is presented to an organization (public or private) that actively bridges the leadership gap that led to the creation of Leadership Polk in the first place. The award spotlights an organization that is operating across the county and in a way that specifically enhances the leadership pools in our communities.The Polk Education Foundation was recognized for the work they do not only helping to support teachers through professional development, grants for their classrooms and supplies to enhance student learning through their Free Teacher Market, but for supporting student growth through educational opportunities and scholarships.The PEF was started 27 years ago as a vehicle to award scholarships to Polk County graduates, helping them attend college and prepare for life as professionals.The Polk Education Foundation was also honored this school year being ranked #17 in the nation in a comparison of the education foundations of like sized school districts.

Honored separately that day, with the Spirit of Leadership Individual Award, was Jerry Miller, who is the PEF’s current board President. Miller is pictured above with other PEF Board members who attended the event (R to L) Cindy Price and Tracy Mouncey; the PEF's Executive Director Susan Copeland, and Sherriff Grady Judd.

Polk Education Foundation ranked #17 out of top 100 Education Foundations in the Nation!

In the 2014 report "Stepping Up: The Top K-12 Education Foundations in the Nation" conducted by Dewey & Associates, the Polk Education Foundation (PEF) ranked #6 in Florida, and #17 in the nation, when compared against education foundations from like sized school districts.



Performance categories used to do the comparative study were:revenues, revenues per student, assets, assets per student, grant and program expenses, grant and program expenses per student, investment income and volunteers.When compared against Foundations with similar revenues, the PEF ranked #2 in the nation.Read the complete report here. View Polk Education Foundation's national rankings here.

Teacher to Teacher Connection Awards $8,600 in grants!

2014 TTC Developers

On September 16, the PEF’s Teacher to Teacher Program awarded $8,600 in Developer grants to 13 innovative teachers.


These Developers submitted their successfully implemented programs and were willing to share those programs with other educators. They have worked diligently with Polk Education Foundation to publish their programs in our online Catalog of Excellence found here.The current Developers will join past Developers to present at the 2014 Idea Expo to be held on November 6, 3:30 - 6:30 pm, at Highland Park Church in Lakeland. K-8 teachers can come and pick up ideas that will energize their OWN classroom.

Thank you to program sponsors SunTrust and Wells Fargo for presenting checks to the teachers at the Developer Reception!

120 AmeriCorps Members Convene on Polk County to do Work Projects!


On Saturday, June 28, representatives from Volunteer Florida and 120 AmeriCorps members from around central Florida convened on Bartow as the Polk Education Foundation hosted the central Florida service project to celebrate the 20th anniversary of both Volunteer Florida and AmeriCorps. Members did campus beautification projects at two local schools so the students and staff have welcoming environments to return to this Fall. Thank you all!

AmeriCorps 20th anniversary work day group


The Sun Trust Foundation recently surprised the Polk Education Foundation with a $25,000 gift!

Suntrust presentation


Funds will primarily be used to start a financial literacy grant program when the 2014-15 school year begins. This is a wonderful example of the generosity of our community and the Polk Education Foundation’s ability to work with a donor to craft a program around the work or philosophy of the donor. Contact the PEF at 863-534-0434 if you or your company has thoughts on how you would like to support education with a donation and create a new opportunity for students and teachers!

LGHS awarded $4,500 grant thanks to Motorola and PEF!

Marcia DeMeza, with her principal Tami Dawson, both of Lake Gibson High school, are shown after receiving $4,500 in Motorola STEM grant funds being administered by the PEF.

Description: Motorolla Grant winner


Marcia teaches Biotechnology Honors 1,2,3 and Chemistry Honors to ...ninth – twelfth grade students at Lake Gibson High School. Her project It’s All about the Orange: A Study of the Impact of the Orange in our Lives is centered around a growing partnership with the industry leaders at Cutrale Citrus, located in Auburndale. It’s All about the Orange has a major economic impact on our citizens from farm to table. Cutrale Citrus will be visiting classes and helping facilitate some of the specific labs pertinent to citrus manufacturing. With the continued focus of college and career readiness, participating students will be exposed to lab safety and quality control, challenges faced by the citrus industry from farm to table, extensive uses of the orange, as well as potential career opportunities. This grant program, now in its second year, is sponsored by Motorola STEM Solutions and is administered by the Polk Education Foundation. As a result of Motorola’s commitment to education, Lake Gibson High School is making great strides to increase students’ scores and enrich the learning process. Thank you to the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations for facilitating this grant program!

AmeriCorps Polk Reads Tutors Help Struggling Readers

The Polk Education Foundation’s Americorps Polk Reads tutors help selected elementary school students become better readers through one-on-one tutoring sessions while working collaboratively with the student’s classroom teacher to focus on specific reading skills.

AC tutors


One of the success factors of this program is that students are tutored during the school day during their regular reading block, so transportation to a before or after school program is not an issue.

During the 2012-13 school years our tutors provided over 48,000 hours (community service and tutoring) at eleven elementary school sites, at no charge to the schools or the families of the students they serve.  According to the Independent Sector the estimated value of a volunteer hour nationally is $22.14.  Our tutors served 46,462 hours at a value of $1,028,679!  Elementary sites included:  Boswell, Carlton Palmore, Dundee, Eagle Lake, Garner, Griffin, Lewis Anna Woodbury, Loughman Oaks, North Lakeland, Oscar J. Pope and Wahneta.  Our members tutored 850 students. According to end of the school year data, 89% of the students tutored through our program met or exceeded the program performance measures.


PEF awards over $700,000 in Scholarships!

Thanks to the generosity of donors in our community, the Polk Education Foundation recently awarded 365 students with $741,298 in scholarships! This is the Foundation’s largest annual award amount to date, helping numerous students achieve their dream of attending college.

scholarship collage


Scholarship awards vary in amount from $250 to $20,000 and donors design the criteria for their award. They can be as involved or uninvolved in the selection process as they’d like, reviewing applications or having the PEF volunteer committee members carry out the review process. All scholarships are announced at high schools’ senior awards ceremonies. Many donors attend to personally present their scholarships. Anyone interested in funding a scholarship to help Polk County students attend college, please call 863-534-0434. To read about more of the work of the Polk Education Foundation in 2012-13 school year, click here.


PEF helps 20 sites double their donations!

The Polk Education Foundation, along with many other education foundations in the state, receives funding through the School District Education Foundation Matching Grant Program, funded by the Florida Legislature and administered by the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations.

UW books UW pal


A unique aspect of this program is that the funds must be matched dollar for dollar with private sector funding.One of the ways the PEF uses our funding is to offer a grant program to schools where by they can offer a match to local donors in the areas of helping low performing students, increasing literacy, promoting STEM education, increasing graduation rates, and providing teacher professional development.This school year, the matching grant program helped 20 sites secure donations from the community. Blake Academy, Harrison, Janie Howard Wilson, Bartow Middle, Bok Academy, Lake Alfred Elementary, Bethune Academy, North Lakeland Elementary*, Kingsford Elementary*, Auburndale Central Elementary*, Purcell Elementary*, Padgett Elementary*, Alta Vista Elementary*, Lake Shipp Elementary*, Roosevelt Academy, Union Academy, Lake Alfred Addair Middle, the PCSB ESOL Department, Winter Haven High School, and Jewett Middle Academy all secured donations from their local community that were matched dollar for dollar, a win-win situation for all!

* Notates schools that utilized funds from the United Way of Central Florida for their match.Pictures here represent the hundreds of books that were purchased to be used in the Reading Pals program which provides adults who read to students and allows students to take books home.For many students, this will be the first book they have ever called their own!


62 Teachers Receive Adapter Grants from PEF!

62 teachers were awarded Teacher to Teacher Adapter Grants this week, totaling $16,527!

ADP group


These educators will be purchasing classroom materials to offset the cost of replicating an innovative program for his/her students that they saw at our TTC Idea Expo last Fall. To date, the Teacher to Teacher Connection has awarded over 930 grants worth more than $430,000, benefiting numerous teachers and countless students

For the second year in a row, the Polk Education Foundation receives a perfect audit!


No remarks for improvement were noted from our independent auditing firm Clifton Larson Allen!

2012 Stepping Out for Education grosses $80,000!

The third annual Stepping Out for Education event was held on Friday, September 21, at The Lakeland Center.


SOFE Group Over 300 guests watched as local “celebrity” dancers, leaders in the Polk County community, strutted their stuff ballroom-style. For the last ten weeks the dancers had been taking professional dance lessons from Lakeland Ballroom and then performed at the event with their professional dance partner. All of the elements of Dancing with the Stars were there - the professional judges who each gave technical remarks and a numbered score, the lifts of the female dancers in the air, the beautiful gowns and sometimes even props.


Jan Hyman, a CPA and Polk Education Foundation board member, took home the overall champion trophy in the competition with her professional partner Ben Castellano. They performed the Fox Trot and the Paso Doble.


Gary Boyer from Boyer Building Corporation and his professional partner Debbie Kallenborn took second place. They performed the Quickstep and a Hustle/Hip Hop routine.


Ashley Bell, former marketing analyst for Workforce Education at the Polk County School District, placed third. She and professional dance partner, Ben Castellano, performed the Viennese Waltz and the Rhumba.

Lauren Schwenk, of OakleyRhinehart Cassidy, and professional dance partner Gene Kallenborn, performed the Argentine Tango and the Swing.

Ken Suarez, from FOX Channel 13, and partner Deb Boatright, danced the Peabody / Charleston and Hustle/Samba.

Jerome Ferson, with the Ledger Media Group, performed the Waltz and Cha Cha with his professional dance partner Doerta Blake.

Dave and Deb

Also performing at the competition were Dr. Dave Misch, the top overall winner in 2011, and his wife Deborah. They opted to perform the encore as a couple when Dr. Misch’s professional partner from last year was due to have a baby at competition time this year.

Two other awards were given out during the competition. The People’s Choice Award was presented to the dancer who raised the most $1 votes. The winner was Gary Boyer who raised almost $8,000! The People’s Choice voting raised $30,000 for the Polk Education Foundation. The final award given was the Audience Favorite. Guests at the event voted after seeing the two rounds of performances. The Audience Favorite award was presented to Lauren Schwenk.

Click here for the full photo gallery.

The $53,000 in net proceeds raised this year will go to support three PEF programs: scholarships, AmeriCorps Polk Reads and the PEF’s Free Teacher Market. Bright House Networks, the event’s Premiere Sponsor, also earned naming rights to the PEF’s Free Teacher Market for the 2012-13 school year through their top level of support. Other sponsors of the event included Silver Sponsors: Boyer Building Corporation, Dr. & Mrs. David Misch, Lynn & Tommy Oakley, Polk State College, SunTrust Bank, Tampa Electric Company, and the PCSB Workforce Education Department. Bronze Sponsors were: Badcock Home Furniture & More, CenterState Bank, Charlie & Cindy Henry, Citizens Bank & Trust, MIDFLORIDA Credit Union, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Lakeland, Mosaic, Oakley Rhinehart Cassidy, Progress Energy, Publix Super Markets Charities and Tracy Mouncey & Associates. Thank you to all! Our appreciation also goes to Lakeland Ballroom and their professional dancers, they are great to work with!

Free Teacher Market has First Opening of the School Year, BrightHouse Networks Comes on as Major Market Sponsor!

We know teachers spend a lot of money out of their own pockets to support their classrooms, that was the primary reason the Free Teacher Market was created, to help lesson that burden.

first market opening in 2012=13


We also know the financial burden placed on a new teacher who has not had the advantage of collecting materials over the years or developing relationships with partners who help with their classroom needs, so the first Market opening of the 2012-13 school year was held just for that group!  Approximately 100 new educators “shopped” for free items such as office supplies, children’s books, art materials, bulletin board displays, paper and other student supplies.  One teacher said “I have not had a job in about six months, so just now starting to teach, I do not have the money to buy extras, so I really appreciate this opportunity!”  Due to recent donations from Bright House Networks ($10,000!) and the George W. Jenkins Fund within the Community Foundation of Greater Lakeland Inc. ($5,000!) that will help stock the Market, we will be able to open more than one time a month this school year!  We hope other donors will to continue to supply gently used or new items to stock the market.  Visit our Free Teacher Market Page for a list of Market needs and FAQs.

Over $700,000 in Scholarships Awarded to 2012 Graduates!

The Polk Education Foundation recently awarded 336 scholarships totaling $730,763, thanks to generous supporters in our community!


Selected seniors, graduating from Polk County public and charter high schools, now have financial help as they attend college and work to achieve their dreams and aspirations.  Thank you to all scholarship donors!  If you are interested in starting a scholarship for the 2012-13 school year, please contact Susan Copeland, at 863-534-0434. 

Scholarship recipient Megan Single, below with donor in picture on left, after receiving the Jared Zumbrun Scholarship. Recipient Natalie Brumwell, shown below in picture on right, with Polk County Gator Club representative Marcia Ford.

a Scholarship recipient Natalie Brumwell shown with Gator representative Marcia Ford.

Study Ranks Polk Education Foundation 6 out of 50 of the Top K-12 Education Foundations in Large School Districts Across the Nation


Click here to read study. Graduate

A recent national study of education foundations and funds, in the 50 largest school districts ranks, the Top 20 education foundations/funds in the nation is supporting public education. The top 10 education foundations / funds are:

  1. Pinellas Education Foundation (FL)
  2. Denver Public Schools Foundation (CO)
  3. Clark Co. Public Ed. Fnd. (NV)
  4. Hillsborough Education Foundation (FL)
  5. Brevard Schools Foundation (FL)
  6. Polk Education Foundation (FL)
  7. The Fund for Public Schools, (NY)
  8. Albuquerque Public School Foundation (NM)
  9. Children’s First Trust Chicago (IL)
  10. Broward Education Foundation (FL)

Duplicating the same study done in 2005, this year’s study used school year 2009-2010 data (most recent year available) from the Form 990 (page one) that nonprofits use to report financial information. It also assessed and compared most of the same performance categories as the 2005 study.

First, the study analyzed the effectiveness of an education fund/foundation at generating and sustaining financial resources to serve the students of its school district. "The rationale is that the more financial resources a foundation can generate the more services and programs it can provide to enhance the public school experience for students,” said Dewey Caruthers, president of dewey & associates, a 13-year-old management consulting firm that conducts occasional studies in education, juvenile justice and public health. Second, the study assessed the effectiveness of distributing financial resources, taking into consideration the number of students in its school district. "We wanted to see the amounts of financial resources these organizations distributed through programs to help students," Caruthers said. A new topic added to this recent study was the role of volunteers. “The ability to grow and sustain large numbers of volunteers is an asset for a foundation, which can be leveraged many different ways to improve public schools,” Caruthers said.

More specifically, the recent study compared the following variables:

  • Long-term financial sustainability (total assets, assets per student, investment income)
  • Fundraising/revenues (total revenues and revenues per student)
  • Program expenditures (total program expenses and program expenses per student – both less salaries and benefits)
  • Volunteers (total volunteers)

The overall Top 20 was the collective scoring of all eight performance categories. The foundations that appeared in the Top 20 in the most categories were ranked highest, emphasizing the importance of being well-rounded.

“There are a lot of ways to measure success of an education foundation, but we chose these performance categories because it is objective data reported in the 990s,” Caruthers said. Polk Education Foundation President Hollis Hooks said “We are proud of the work of our local education foundation and to be ranked so high, in a study of 50 comparably sized school districts, is an outstanding achievement!”

AT&T and Motorola contribute $6,750 for STEM grants at two Polk County Schools

Students at Kathleen High School’s Central Florida Aerospace Academy will have the opportunity to learn and apply STEM skills beyond the classroom through an Innovation Generation grant from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, the charitable arm of Motorola Solutions Inc.


The Motorola Solutions Foundation provided $50,000 to challenge Florida’s district-wide local education foundations to inspire students through projects designed to help them solve real-world problems in science, math, technology and engineering (STEM) areas this school year through a grant to the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations (CFEF).

The Polk Education Foundation’s project was one of 11 chosen to receive $4,750 through a competitive judging process where 20 proposed projects were reviewed and scored by a panel of STEM industry professionals through CFEF. 

Additionally, 40 students at Lake Alfred-Addair Middle School will have the opportunity to see for themselves how what they are learning in the classroom is used in various occupations, thanks to an AT&T “STEM at Work” grant. Based on outcomes from an initial program last year, AT&T Florida provided $120,000 to challenge Florida’s district-wide local education foundationsLAA Pic to create STEM workplace experiences throughout the state this school year through a grant to the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations (CFEF). These students will be working on robotics and learn various skills from engineers in the Polk County area. 

The project’s aim is to provide students hands-on experiential learning opportunities outside the classroom that are directly linked to their coursework in science, technology, engineering and/or math. Problem-solving, real-world application of STEM education concepts and critical thinking skills will all be key elements. With $100,000 in funding last year, 44 projects involving 2,694 students and 53 local workplace partners took place throughout Florida and similar outcomes are anticipated for the 2011-12 project.

**Pictured above- Principal Asonja Corbett and Teacher Leonda Narramore accept their grant funds from the Polk Education Foundation.

If you are interested in supporting a program of the PEF, or funding a new program to enhance public school education, please call Susan Copeland at 863-534-0434.

Polk Education Foundation raises $70,000 in "Dancing with the Stars" Style Event!

The second annual Stepping Out for Education event was held on Friday, September 23, at The Lakeland Center.  Over 400 guests watched as local “celebrity” dancers, leaders in the Polk County community, strutted their stuff ballroom-style.



For the last ten weeks the dancers had been taking professional dance lessons from Lakeland Ballroom and then performed at the event with their professional dance partner.  All of the elements of Dancing with the Stars were there - the professional judges who each gave technical remarks and a numbered score, the lifts of the female dancers in the air, the beautiful gowns and sometimes even props.  This competition took the celebrity dancers out of their “comfort zone”.  As a requirement to participate the celebrities were to have had no formal dance training  Susan Copeland, Executive Director of the Polk Education Foundation, said this event, like the first year, “exceeded her expectations”.  “After I watched the dress rehearsal, I knew we had another winning program on our hands. The dancers were fabulous!”

Dr. David Misch from the Center for Retina and Macular Disease took home the overall champion trophy in the competition with his professional partner Stephanie Allain.  They performed the Quickstep and the Rumba.  Deric Feacher from the City of Winter Haven and his professional partner Debbie Kallenborn took First Place in the Male Division.  They performed the Waltz and a Salsa/Hip Hop routine.  Katie Gernert from Clark, Nikdel & Powell placed first in the Women’s Division.  She and professional dance partner, Ben Castellano, performed the Tango and the Cha-Cha. Colleen Burton, Executive Director of Polk Vision and professional dance partner Gene Kallenborn performed the Tango and a Country Melody.  Robert Loftin from BB&T Bank and partner Tatyana Frost danced the Tango and Rumba. Kathryn Koch from Lanier Upshaw performed the Fox Trot and Hustle with her partner, Bill Bryant.  Also performing at the competition were Gail McKinzie and Tracy Porter.  McKinzie, former Polk School Superintendent, was a dancer in the 2010 event.  She continued her dance lessons and now travels the country competing in ballroom dance.

Two other awards were given out during the competition. The People’s Choice Award was offered to the dancer who raised the most $1 votes. The winner was Dr. David Misch who raised $7,492. Kathryn Koch was second with $2,757. The People’s Choice voting raised $15,000 for the Polk Education Foundation. The second award given was the Audience Favorite. Guests at the event voted after seeing the two rounds of performances.  The Audience Favorite award was presented to Katie Gernert.

Teacher to Teacher Connection awards $11,000 in Developer Grants

The Polk Education Foundation hosted their annual Developer Recognition Reception on September 13, 2011 at the Lake Wales Art Center to recognize teachers from Polk and Hardee counties who won classroom grants based on innovative programs implemented during the 2010-2011 school year.


2011 Developers

Over 50 people attended the Reception, including Polk County principals and administration, Hardee school based administration and business sponsors. The teachers received a published webpage highlighting their program as well as a monetary award of up to $1,000.

Developer awards mark the beginning of the new Teacher to Teacher/School to School (T2T/S2S) Connection Cycle.  November 15th will bring the 2011 IDEA Expo which will host approximately 60 former developers along with this year’s winners.  Teachers from the Central Florida area will be invited to attend the event and then apply to adapt one of the ideas found there.  Adapter awards will provide $200.00 in classroom and $800.00 in school project money to adapt already developed programs into classroom projects.


Commissioner’s Business Recognition Awards

Pictured at the Commissioner's Business Recognition Awards (CBRA) in Tampa recently is Left to Rright: Susan Copeland, Executive Director of the Polk Education Foundation, Tim and Lisa Bosko, Carol Barnett, and Don and Linda Bosko and Buddy Thomas, principal of George Jenkins High School.

CBRA Awards



Bosko Family Enterprises and Publix Super Markets Charities were Polk County's 2011 nominees for the CBRA award. Click here for complete information on the CBRA awards.

Twenty-two students receive Take Stock in Children Scholarships

Take Stock in Children is a scholarship-mentoring program administered by the Polk Education Foundation. Donors recently allowed TSIC to add students to the program by sponsoring their scholarships.


Take Stock in Children Scholarships

Ronald McDonald House Charities/Tampa Bay provided scholarships to Polk County students again his year. Each student will receive a two-year, 60 hour junior college tuition scholarship at graduation. Pictured above are three of the recipients: Laura Gomez, George Jenkins HS, Karielle Helmick, Mulberry HS, and Amado Rodriguez, McKeel Academy. Also chosen was Nicolette Chamberlain, Haines City HS. The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay is a long time supporter of the youth in Polk County.

The Chair Scholars Foundation, who provides scholarships for Polk County students with physical disabilities, created lots of smiles when they awarded four-year tuition scholarships for Stephen Lashley, Ridge Community HS; Brandon Hilbert, Mulberry HS; Bibia Rosario, George Jenkins HS; Carrie Facente, Tenoroc HS; Martin Villegas, Lake Region HS; Yamillex Nunez, Haines City HS; and Dollie Vaughn, Lake Gibson HS.

Polk Works provided scholarships for select participants in their Young Leaders program. Students receiving awards were Wilaine Jean, Winter Haven HS; D'aphne Camp, Lakeland HS; Ryan Davis, Ridge Community HS; Akelia Thomas, Tenoroc HS; Keyontaye Williams, Bartow HS; Gregorio Bautista, Ridge Career Center; Charnele Sterling, Winter Haven HS; Lashala Mosley, Lake Wales HS; Brian Prada, Ridge Community HS and Tashera Brown, Fort Meade HS.

Thank you to all of our sponsors and we encourage anyone interested in sponsoring scholarships with the benefit of a dollar for dollar match, to contact Susan Fenich 863-519-8077.

The Polk Education Foundation congratulates the 2011 Teacher and School-Related Employee of the Year!


Teacher and School Related Employee of the Year

2011 Teacher of the Year and School-Related Employee of the Year Sponsors

Platinum Level: Midflorida Credit Union

Gold Level:

Aramark Education, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Boswell & Dunlap, Bright House Networks, Everest University, Ledger Media Group, Mosaic, Publix Super Markets Charities, TECO Energy

Bronze Level:

Bank of America, Ben Hill Griffin, Inc., Bunting Tripp & Ingley, Citizens Bank & Trust, Geico, Holland and Knight, Huntington Learning Center, Magnify Credit Union, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney - Lakeland, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney - Winter Haven, Pepsi, Polk Education Association, Polk State College, Progress Energy, SunTrust Bank, Teachers' Exchange

2010 Wachovia/Wells Fargo Science Grant Recipients

Thanks to the generosity of Wachovia Bank and Wells Fargo, the Polk Education Foundation distributed $5,000 in Environmental Science Grants to selected schools in the district.


These schools implemented programs in their science departments to increase FCAT scores and enhance instructional practices in the areas of environmental and life sciences. Congratulations to these schools for their hard work and dedication to students’ success!

  • Auburndale Central Elementary
  • Fort Meade Middle/Senior High
  • WachoviaGarner Elementary
  • Horizons Elementary
  • Kathleen Senior High School
  • Westwood Middle School
  • Caldwell Elementary
  • Inwood Elementary

Wachovia Grants

Teachers Amanda Crane and Samantha Baldus from Garner Elementary, along with AIF Shannan Combee from Inwood Elementary, accept their grants from Wachovia Wells Fargo.

2010 IDEA Expo Provides Innovative Classroom ideas for Polk & Hardee Educators

Over 500 educators from Polk & Hardee counties attended the 2010 IDEA Expo, held by the Teacher to Teacher/School to School Connection Program, in conjunction with the Polk and Hardee Education Foundations and local business sponsors.


Featured were over 70 area PreK-8th grade teachers who have developed innovative classroom programs and presented those ideas in order to network and encourage elementary and middle school educators in the task of creating and implementing creative standards-based units for students in the public school system. The Expo not only featured visually exciting displays, but also included area business vendors, such as Bright House Networks, Teachers’ Exchange, Midflorida Federal Credit Union, Bank of America and Bok Tower Gardens. Door prizes and free giveaways were also a part of this great teacher event. Food and refreshments were prepared by the Winter Haven High School Culinary Arts Program. All Education majors attending local colleges and universities were also invited to attend.

Those teachers who visited the Expo are now eligible for Adapter Grants of $200 for their classrooms or $800 for their schools in order to implement the creative programs shown. To date, the Teacher to Teacher/School to School Connection has awarded over 780 grants worth more than $305,000, benefiting numerous teachers and countless students.

For more information regarding the Teacher to Teacher Program, please contact Miranda Collins, Program Director at the Polk Education Foundation, 863.534.0803.

T2T Expo

Staff members Monica LePere and Kim Mayes from R. Bruce Wagner Elementary highlight their school-wide recycling program with help from their students at the 2010 Idea Expo.

Project Fill-A-Bucket, donation needed by November 19th!

The Polk Education Foundation, in partnership with the PCSB Hearth Program, is kicking off Project Fill-A-Bucket to benefit homeless students.


Project Fill-A-BucketThis annual program provides a bucket of personal hygiene items, a book, stuffed animal or small gift item, and a warm jacket to homeless students in the Polk County School District. Buckets are first decorated by students at our local schools and are then filled with the items and distributed before the Christmas holidays.

Your school, classroom or department can become a donation collection site for the hygiene items, books, and stuffed animals used for this project. Remember- all donated items must be NEW! We have found that many students, in their desire to help, will bring in used items in to donate. Please handle as you see fit, but those items should be sorted out and could be taken to a local shelter or other collection site where they can be used.

Project Fill-A-BucketDonations must be collected by November 19, 2010, to allow time for sorting, filling buckets and deliveries to the recipients.

If you plan to become a donation collection site, simply email as the November 20th deadline approaches and we will gladly pick up your items. The PCSB Courier will deliver small packages of donations; those should be sent to the District Office, attn. Project Hearth, Route E. Items may also be delivered to the Hearth Portable, located to the north of the Apple a Day Café.

Project Fill-A-BucketLast year, 512 buckets were filled, giving an estimated $18,000 worth of items to needy students. Thank you in advance for your help, the generosity of our district will make a huge difference in the lives of homeless children in Polk County!

New Teacher Blast Off & Free Teacher Market- October 2, 2010!

On October 2, 2010, from 9:00am-12:00pm, the Polk Education Foundation and School Board of Polk County will host a New Teacher Blast Off Event in conjunction with the opening of the Free Teacher Market, both on the campus of Bartow High School. 


Teacher MarketOver 800 new educators will be invited to attend the Blast Off, where they can visit vendor booths, enjoy food and enter door prizes throughout the morning.

The Free Teacher Market will also be open all year round during specific times to provide free materials and supplies to educators in Polk County. For more information on donating new or used items to the store.

Stepping Out For Education raises $36,000 for PEF!

The first annual Stepping Out for Education event was held on Friday, June 18, at the Lakeland Yacht and Country Club. Over 250 guests watched as local “celebrity” dancers, leaders in the Polk County community, strutted their stuff ballroom-style.


Stepping Out For Education For the last ten weeks the dancers had been taking professional dance lessons from Lakeland Ballroom and then performed at the event with their professional dance partner. Jerry Miller from Progress Energy took first place in the competition with his professional partner Vicki Seaton. They performed the Tango and the Swing. Bonnie Parker from Sun Trust Bank and her professional partner Todd Staley took second place.Stepping Out For Education They performed the Tango and the Salsa. Dr. Gail McKinzie, Superintendent of Polk County Schools, placed third. She and professional dance partner, Gene Kallenborn, performed the Quick Step and the Jitterbug. Tracy Porter, Executive Director of Polk State College Foundation and professional dance partner Bill Bryant performed the Waltz and the Cha Cha. Tim Harris and Ariel Trazaskos danced the Tango and Rumba. Ariel, a trained dancer from Lakeland Ballroom, is a 2010 graduate of Lakeland High School and received a scholarship from the Polk Education Foundation this year.

Sponsors and dancers for next year’s event are already being sought!

Click here to view the Stepping Out For Education 2010 Photo Gallery

Thank you to our event sponsors:

  • Gold - TECO
  • Silver - MIDFLORIDA Credit Union
  • Bronze - ASC Geocities, Barney and Carol J. Barnett fund within the Community Foundation of Greater Lakeland, Citizens Bank, Dr. and Mrs. David Misch, Polk State College, Sun Trust Bank
  • Costume - Morgan Stanley Smith Barney The Scheck Group.

Wachovia Grant School Recipients

Wachovia has once again awarded the Polk Education Foundation with a grant to help schools with their lowest achieving students.


Wachovia provided $5,000 which was directed to Correct 2 elementary schools who were awarded grants of $500 - $1,000 to help with student achievement.

Schools receiving these funds are:

  • Churchwell Elementary $500
  • Combee Elementary $500
  • Dundee Elementary $500
  • Eagle Lake Elementary $500
  • Kingsford Elementary $500
  • North Lakeland Elementary $500
  • Auburndale Central Elementary $1,000
  • Winston Elementary $1,000

**The Polk Education Foundation also provided a $1,000 grant to Oscar Pope Elementary.

Wachovia Grant

Wachovia Representative Katrina Lunsford presents teachers and students at Auburndale Central Elementary with a $1,000 check to help increase student achievement.

Additionally, Wachovia gave the Polk Education Foundation $700 to help with the costs associated with the upcoming Teacher/School Related Employee of the Year Banquet. Thank you Wachovia!

Progress Energy Science Grant School Recipients for 2009-2010

The Polk Education Foundation would like to the honor the Progress Energy Science Grant school recipients for the 2009-2010 school year. These schools, all located in the Progress Energy service area, were recognized at the 2009 Progress Energy Science grant reception held on December 1, 2009 at the Lake Wales Art Center.


Each selected school will receive $2,000 to purchase science materials to enhance energy-based curriculum and increase student achievement on state standardized tests. This grant program, now in its fourth year, is sponsored by Progress Energy and has returned over $150,000 back into the classrooms of the Progress Energy service areas. As a result of Progress Energy’s commitment to education, these schools are making great strides to increase students’ scores and enrich the learning process in grades Kindergarten through 12th.

The Polk Education Foundation is a direct support 501(c)(3) organization for the Polk County School Board and raises funds to support school programs for which tax generated dollars may not be used. For more information about the Foundation, please visit our website at

Progress Energy Grant

Susan Copeland, Executive Director (left) and Mr. Jerry Miller, Progress Energy (far right) presents teacher Rachel Nicholson from Frostproof Middle/Senior High School with a grant check and certificate.

Congratulations to the following schools:

  • Alturas Elementary
  • Babson Park Elementary
  • Bethune Academy
  • Boone Middle School
  • Daniel Jenkins Academy
  • Dundee Elementary
  • Eastside Elementary
  • Frostproof Elementary
  • Frostproof Middle/Senior High School
  • Hillcrest Elementary
  • Janie Howard Wilson Elementary
  • Lake Wales High School
  • Our Children’s Academy
  • Palmetto Elementary
  • Polk Avenue Elementary
  • Ridge Community High School
  • Roosevelt Academy
  • Sandhill Elementary
  • Spook Hill Elementary

Ronald McDonald House Charities Recognize Scholarship Recipients

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay recognized local recipients of their Florida Prepaid Foundation tuition scholarships at a luncheon held at the Grand Hyatt in Clearwater on December 1.


Emcee Veronica Alfaro-Young (WQYK) welcomed students, parents and other guests. Ernest Hooper, St. Petersburg Times Columnist, spoke to those in attendance on the importance of focusing on life and values that will help them be successful. Ronald McDonald joined executives and owner/operators in presenting a certificate, shoulder pack, sports cup and four tickets to a Lightning hockey game.

Applications for this year’s RMCH scholarships and other scholarships are currently online at until December 15. For more information, please email Teresa at or call 863-519-8076.

Ronald McDonald Charities Scholarship Winners

Students pictured with Ronald McDonald are:

  • Caitlan Hopkins, George Jenkins
  • Jeanette Fiallo, Harrison Arts Center
  • Dejameyson Green, Tenoroc
  • Keidra Lamont, Harrison Arts Center
  • Michael Smith, Harrison Arts Center

Students were selected as sophomores and will be mentored and assisted in college planning throughout high school by the Polk Education Foundation’s Take Stock in Children scholarship/mentoring program.

Project Fill-A-Bucket

Donations are needed by November 20, 2009

Items for collection:

  • shampoo and conditioner
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • bath soap
  • brushes and combs
  • deodorant
  • towels and wash cloths
  • children’s books
  • stuffed bears/animals

Each bucket is also stuffed with a jacket appropriately sized for each child. Monetary donations will be accepted to make those purchases and also for the purchase of items for teenage children. Please make checks payable to the Polk Education Foundation with Fill-A-Bucket noted on the memo line. All monetary donations will generate a thank you letter with the Foundation’s 501(c)(3) determination for tax purposes.

2009 Project Fill-A-Bucket

Project Hearth and the Polk Education Foundation are partnering together for the fifteenth year to administer Project Fill-A-Bucket. Buckets are given to students in the Polk County public school system who meet the federal criteria as homeless, or who are at risk of becoming homeless.


Buckets are decorated, filled and distributed prior to the Christmas holidays. For many children these buckets not only contain basic living necessities, but may be the only items they receive during the holiday season.

We ask that NEW ITEMS ONLY be donated to fill the buckets. If you would like to participate, please send donations by courier to: Dee Dee Wright, Hearth Portable, District Office, Route E. For large quantity pickups, those outside the school system, or if you have questions, please call the Project Hearth Office, 863-534-0801, or the Polk Education Foundation, 863-534-0519, to make an appointment for pickup. Your help in brightening the lives of these disadvantaged children during the holidays is very much appreciated!


AmeriCorps Polk Reads Members Graduate from Service Program

30 members “graduated” from AmeriCorps after fulfilling one year of service!


AmeriCorps Polk Reads Members Graduate from Service Program

Pictured from left to right:

  • Susan Copeland, Executive Director of the Polk Education
  • Natalie Day, graduating AmeriCorps Member,
  • Bill Reid, of Verizon, a sponsor of AmeriCorps Polk Reads.

30 members “graduated” from AmeriCorps after fulfilling one year of service. Congratulations to: Michelle Bell, Adele Bell, Ashley Borders, Kathy Clemens, Natalie Day, Roberta Dionne, Holly Finley, Janelle Giroux, Jolene Harthun, Petra Hils, Constance Jimenez, Brenda Johnson, Katie Kearns, Amanda Lake, Lindsay McConnell, Mary Ellen McDonald, Genrri Navarro, Jason Parsley, Ebony Pelemon, Amber Pollock, Jane Renner, Felicia Riedeman, Karen Smith-Addison, Christian Soriano, Linda Stephens, Bertie Ticknor, Amy Lynn Tucker, David Williams, Kristy Williams, Sidney Williams.

AmeriCorps Polk Reads provides one-on-one tutoring for kindergarten through third grade students who read below grade level in selected Polk schools. The program is funded by federal grants from the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism, and local dollars. The program is administered by the Polk Education Foundation.

In the 08-09 school year, 638 Kindergarten through 3rd grade students received one-on-one reading tutoring in the AmeriCorps program. Tutors service totaled over 50,000 hours!

In addition to tutoring, members participated in 28 community service events including Family Fundamentals Children’s Festivals and Back to School Bash, Keep Polk County Beautiful, Eloise and Ft. Meade’s Back to School Bashes and the Read Polk Annual Spelling Bee.

The program also received the Volunteer Florida’s “National Service Includes Everyone” Award in recognition of exemplary inclusion of persons with disabilities in AmeriCorps.

2009 Polk Education Foundation Scholarship Recipients

The Polk Education Foundation (PEF) in partnership with local individuals, civic organization and businesses, awarded 337 scholarships to Polk County seniors in the class of 2009.


2009 PEF Scholarship Recipients

Gavin Wade, Lake Wales High School graduate and recipient of the 4 year Maxcy Foundation Inc. Scholarship is pictured with Cindy Henry, one of the award sponsors.

2009 PEF Scholarship Recipients

State Representative John Wood presents PEF Executive Director Susan Copeland with his $8,400 scholarship contribution to start a scholarship in his name for students who attended high school in the district he serves.

The Polk Education Foundation (PEF) in partnership with local individuals, civic organization and businesses, awarded 337 scholarships to Polk County seniors in the class of 2009. These awards totaled $551,250! Donors are able to work with the PEF to design criteria to offer a scholarship that fits their wants and needs. The PEF acts not only as the fiscal agent of the scholarship funds, but also administers the process of application submission, judging, awarding, and dissemination of funds. The Foundation was established in 1988 for the purpose of creating a scholarship vehicle for Polk County public schools, and although the PEF has grown to offer many more programs and services, our scholarship program remains the largest. Donors interested in starting a scholarship should call 863-534-0434. Congratulations to all PEF scholarship recipients and thank you to the donors who make these awards possible!

Please here for a list of all 2009 PEF Scholarship recipients.

2009 Developer Grant Dinner Honors Innovative Educators from Polk, Hardee & Highlands County

Winter Haven, FL – Tri-county K-8th grade educators were honored at the 2009 Developer Grant Meeting held by the Teacher to Teacher/School to School Connection Program, in conjunction with the Polk Education Foundation and local business sponsors.


Connie Harris and Susan Copeland

From left to right: Connie Harris, Bartow Middle Teacher and Susan Copeland, Executive Director of PEF

This year, 34 teachers were awarded Developer Grants totaling up to $1,000 for a classroom or school-wide program he/she developed and implemented at his/her respective schools. These educators will be receiving a monetary gift as well as money to purchase classroom materials to better enhance their teaching methods and opportunities for students. These teachers exemplify the good works being produced in Polk, Hardee and Highlands County school districts. To date, the Teacher to Teacher Connection has awarded over 720 grants worth more than $265,000 and the School to School Connection has awarded 16 grants worth $16,000, benefiting numerous teachers and countless students.

The following teachers were honored:

  • Teacher to Teacher Recipients
    • Allison Carter - Highlands Grove Elementary
    • Neena Williams & Katherine Noller - North Lakeland Elementary
    • Stefanie A. Brokas - Doris Sanders Learning Center
    • Stacie C. Whaley - North Wauchula Elementary
    • Doreen Diefendorf - Lake Country Elementary
    • Jennifer Shackelford - North Wauchula Elementary
    • Jennifer Blanton - Eagle Lake Elementary
    • Sharon Francis - Snively Elementary
    • Caroline Kaiser - Davenport School of the Arts
    • Laura Mastrangelo - Snively Elementary
    • Gloria Neel North - Wauchula Elementary
    • Sharon Ussery - Zolfo Springs Elementary
    • Amy Till - Bartow Elementary Academy
    • Brittanie Moore - Inwood Elementary
    • Karen Reece - Bartow Elementary Academy
    • Joy Eastman - Sebring Middle School
    • Jill O'Leary - Berkley Elementary
    • Connie Harris - Bartow Middle School
    • Kay Teehan Bartow Middle School
  • School to School Recipients
    • Shannon Lima-Jones, Rebecca Charlet, Amy Weingarth, Michael Wright - Kathleen Elementary
    • Rebecca Propst, Jackie Cosgrave, Crystal Baugh, Ashley Tomlinson, Sue Cope, Elvia Barajas - Lake Country Elementary
    • Joy Conley - Dixieland Elementary
    • Hillary Hendrix - Inwood Elementary
    • Jennifer Clark-Chrow - Lake Marion Creek Elementary
    • Shannan Combee - Inwood Elementary

For more information regarding the 2009 Developer Grant Meeting or to become a business sponsor of the Teacher to Teacher/School to School Connection Program, please contact Miranda Collins at the Polk Education Foundation 863.534.0803

$25,000 Grant from AT&T

A $25,000 grant from AT&T will provide enhanced services to high school students around Polk County to help ensure students are prepared to graduate from high school and ready them for college or the workforce.


The focus of the services will be for underserved students who might not otherwise qualify for college or who may need direction when deciding on a career path that differs from a vocation his/her family has traditionally explored. High Schools will have latitude in determining the greatest need at their particular site, and in which area their services will focus. High schools receiving AT&T Success Grants of $2,500 are: Mulberry, Ridge Community, Frostproof, Fort Meade, George Jenkins, Lake Region Career Academy, Lake Gibson Career Academy, Tenoroc, Winter Haven and Life Skills Center East.


From left to right:

  • Florida President, Marshall Criser, III
  • Account Manager, Daphne Dilbert
  • Director Community Relations, West Florida, Selena Quick
  • Executive Director, Polk Education Foundation, Susan Copeland
  • Area Marketing Manager, Ben Prescott
  • Area Sales Manager, Patrick DiDomenico