Twenty Duval County Public School teachers awarded $500 PowerUP Jax innovation grant


October 17, 2016



Twenty Duval County Public School teachers awarded $500 PowerUP Jax innovation grant


JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Oct. 17, 2016 —Jacksonville Public Education Fund along with lead sponsor, Community First Cares Foundation, the charitable arm of Community First Credit Union, announce the recipients of 20 PowerUP Jax innovation grants to public school teachers in Duval County. Each recipient will receive a $500 grant to support their classroom projects.

A committee of volunteers awarded the grants based on project proposals that were scored using a rubric that prioritized hands-on learning, impact both in and out of the classroom and creativity.

Today, three of the teachers, chosen at random, were surprised in their classrooms filled with students with a “prize patrol” to receive the awards. The patrol included Missy Peters, executive director of the Community First Cares Foundation and Trey Csar, president of Jacksonville Public Education Fund.

“We are so proud to continue to support PowerUP Jax and the amazing projects in our classrooms,” said Peters. “As one of our key projects and education focuses, we are pleased that PowerUP Jax continues to inspire teacher and students alike.”

The grant winners along with the titles of their projects are:

  1. Rebekka Allen, Mt. Herman Sunshine Garden Enterprise, Mt. Herman Exceptional Student Center
  2. Mary Elizabeth Ballentine, Postcrossing: Making Global Connections, Oceanway Middle School
  3. Shaun Bennett, The Steel Drum Project, Ortega Elementary
  4. Susan Burns, One Teacher’s Trash…, Fishweir Elementary School
  5. Heidi Ecklor, IMPOSSIBLE becomes I’M POSSIBLE in Innovative Inclusive Classrooms Implementing iPads, John Stockton Elementary School
  6. Jessica Fessenden, TEDXWolfson: A community-partnered discussion to increase global mindedness, Wolfson High School
  7. Gayle Fiser, Your Family has NO Taste!, Darnell-Cookman Middle-High School
  8. Priscilla Hardage, Gods and goddesses and creatures oh my!, Chimney Lakes Elementary
  9. Monica Isom, GIZMO Funding, Joseph Finegan Elementary
  10. Dr. Mai Dinh Keisling, Experiencing Museums: Impact on IB-Art and AP Art History Exam Scores, Paxon School for Advanced Studies
  11. Dwyane Kohn, Young Gentlemen Group of Kings Trail Elementary, Kings Trail Elementary
  12. Cheryl B. Lemine, In Honor of Veterans – A booklet of Freelance Poetry,LaVilla School of the Arts
  13. Emmie McMahon, A Jedi Academy will make Jedi Masters!, Lone Star
  14. Jane Monks, Mt. Herman Art Festival, Mt. Herman Exceptional Student Center
  15. Vernita Moore, Human Impact on The Environment (specifically our sources of water), Jean Ribault Middle School
  16. Donalee Nobles, Creating Music Through Ukuleles, Romona Elementary School
  17. Bethany Patel, Wonderful WonderBots!, John Stockton
  18. Kathleen M. Poe, When given the choice, “Choose Kind,” Jacksonville Beach Elementary
  19. Ashley Russell, The Power is in Our Hands!, Chets Creek Elementary
  20. Elizabeth Thomas, Request for Chemical and laboratory Equipment for the Chemistry Club, Darnell-Cookman Middle-High School

Starting Oct. 18, members of the public will have a chance to read more about the projects on Facebook and vote for one of them to receive a bonus award of $150 in a Lightning Round. Go to to vote and learn more. 

“I’m proud of this continued partnership to empower and support some of the most innovative teachers in the district. These award recipients have put forth creative ideas that show how they go above and beyond for their students,” Csar said. “We received 48 proposals this year from 48 quality teachers, and I know it was difficult for the committee to choose just 20.” 

All grant winners will go on to compete for the $1,000 Community First Innovation Prize, which is presented at the 2017 EDDY Awards Gala and Ceremony planned for Friday, February 24, 2017.

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. Community First Cares Foundation is the lead funder and sponsor of PowerUP Jax, which was launched in October 2013 by JPEF. Since its inception, 102 innovative projects in subjects including STEM, English/Language Arts, Math, Music, Civic Responsibility and more, have been fully funded to make an impact in the lives of local students.

The Community First Cares Foundation is the only nonprofit foundation lead by a credit union in the region and one of only a few in Florida. Its mission is to help improve the quality of life in North Florida by supporting activities to improve financial literacy, quality of education, health and welfare and help the underserved.


Contact Charmaine Campo, Marketing & Communications Manager, at (904) 790-1178 or for more information.




About the Jacksonville Public Education Fund

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.


About The Community First Cares Foundation  

The Community First Cares Foundation, founded by Community First Credit Union, is a non-profit community 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 nonprofit organizations that serve the communities on the First Coast. For more information, visit or call 904-371-8090.





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