Naperville Education Foundation opens up its annual grant applications


Grace Ainger, Staff Writer

The Naperville Education Foundation (NEF) is now accepting applications for their annual grants for Naperville 203 students and staff. 

The grants are used to fund student and teacher projects that benefit their school community. There is no expressed dollar limit, and the funds are expected to be used for the 22-23 school year. There are also “express grants” that are for more immediate and necessary funds.

All grants must be initiated by a District 203 student or teacher, support a D203 school, be approved by the school principal and align with the school’s improvement plan and/or to a curricular area or standard. All applications are reviewed by NEF trustees and D203 community members past and present. Kim Henderson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the NEF, discussed a key factor they look for in applications: student involvement.

“Whenever we see a student driven grant we get really excited,” Henderson said. “It’s one thing for the teachers to tell us what [the students] want and value but when a student writes it, we know it’s going to have some huge value to the [student] population.”

Henderson also described the other factors that the NEF accounts for. These include budget or cost management, sustainability, its alignment with the NEF mission statement, student impact and a strong implementation plan.

The NEF has set up four categories that the grants must fall into: Diversity and Inclusion, Fine Arts and Physical Education, Social and Emotional Learning and STEM. Literacy grants are awarded by the Jeanine Nicarico Memorial Literacy Fund.

Mark Rowzee, a science teacher at Naperville North High School, has participated in the grant program for around seven years. He submits his projects in the STEM category, ranging from slow motion camera work and underwater ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) to space balloons and quadcopters (drones). Rowzee described one of his favorite aspects of the projects.

“My favorite [projects] are the ones that involve high schoolers teaching younger kids and helping that younger kid see themselves in the same position in high school,” Rowzee said. “[These kids] are going to come in feeling more comfortable being at North.”

Rowzee also discussed a student of his who used his slow motion camera purchased with the grant for their STEM Capstone project, going on to study engineering and material sciences in college. He believes that the grants offer significant support to students.

“[These projects] can be a gateway into Naperville North or it can help determine a career path…It’s truly inspirational to both individuals and groups of students,” Rowzee said.

Applications will be accepted until Feb. 1 2022 on the NEF website.