Community First Cares Foundation to bestow the Third Annual Innovation Prize at The EDDY Awards


The Community First Cares Foundation, the charitable giving arm of Community First Credit Union, announces the recipient of the Community First Innovation Prize honoring creativity and innovation in classroom instruction in Duval County. Riley Krotz, a science teacher at Duncan U. Fletcher Middle School, will be honored with the Innovation Prize at the Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s (JPEF) 25th Annual EDDY Awards scheduled to be held at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront on Saturday, March 12 at 6 p.m.

The prize and companion innovation grants given to the Innovation Prize finalists are part of PowerUP Jax, an initiative of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund and sponsored by Community First Cares. The $500 grant winners were honored and awarded by surprise visits in their classrooms on Monday. The “prize patrol” included Missy Peters, executive director of the Community First Cares Foundation and Trey Csar, president of JPEF.

“We were honored to present these grants today as part of our dedication to community,” said Peters. “These teachers have done amazing work and it was difficult to choose just one winner of the grand prize. In just three years this project has exploded with excitement and enthusiasm for innovation in our classroom.”

Innovation Prize winner Krotz plans to use his PowerUP Jax funding to develop critical thinking skills by exposing students to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Students will use creativity and scientific experimentation to build a robot of their own design. The student-designed robots will solve a student-defined problem and be measured by effectiveness and innovation.

The $500 grant winners are:

  • Misty Allen, John N.C. Stockton Elementary
  • Shaun Bennett, Ortega Elementary
  • Gayle Fiser, Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School
  • Priscilla Hardage, Chimney Lakes Elementary
  • Malik Jackson, Highlands Middle School
  • Phyleshia Jones, Jean Ribault High School
  • Maria McMahon, Lone Star Elementary
  • Usharani Puranam, Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School
  • Ginny Raynolds, GRASP Academy
  • Elizabeth Thomas, Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School

The grants and the Innovation Prize are decided by a volunteer committee and awarded based on the teacher proposals’ creativity and prioritized hands-on learning experiences to raise student achievement.

undefinedStarting February 23 until Monday, March 7, interested community members have a chance to read more about the projects on Facebook and vote for one teacher  to receive a bonus award of $150 in a “Lightning Round.” Visit to vote and learn more.

“Thanks to the partnership of Community First, teachers not only have a chance to innovate in their classrooms, but also spread ideas to other teachers,” Csar said. “I’m thrilled with the quality of the projects submitted and I know it was difficult for the committee to choose.”

Community First Cares Foundation is the lead funder and sponsor of PowerUP Jax, which was launched in October 2013. Since its inception, 102 innovative teacher projects have been fully funded to make an impact in the lives of local students in the areas of STEM, English/language arts, visual and fine art and music education. PowerUP Jax and the EDDY Awards are part of a larger strategy for the Jacksonville Public Education Fund to elevate and celebrate Jacksonville’s best teachers. 

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is an independent nonprofit organization that works to inform and mobilize the community to advocate for universally high-quality public schools for all children. For more information, visit or call (904) 356-7757.

The Community First Cares Foundation, founded by Community First Credit Union, is a non-profit charitable foundation that grants funds to improve the quality of life in North Florida. The foundation supports activities to improve financial literacy, enhance the quality of our educational system, upgrade the health and welfare of our community and help underserved citizens. The Community First Cares Foundation makes contributions to non-profit organizations that serve the communities on the First Coast. For more information, visit or call (904)371-8090.

For more information about Community First Credit Union, visit or call (904)354-8537.




of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2021-2022.