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Katy ISD Education Foundation to host 6th annual Fireflies & Foodtrucks

October 7, 2018

The Katy Independent School District Education Foundation is hosting its 6th annual Fireflies & Foodtrucks fundraiser this month to “unite the community” and raise money to fund grants for student-teacher classroom projects.

More than 750 people are expected to attend the adults-only event, which will feature live music, eight food trucks and a wine garden, at No Label Brewery on Thursday, Oct. 18, said Susan Smith, Katy ISD Education Foundation Board President and founder of Two Forks of Catering.

“The Education Foundation has two goals,” Smith said. “One is to unite the community. The second is to support Katy ISD teachers and students. The ‘unite the community’ - we take just as seriously as anything else.”

The single biggest entity in Katy is the school district, Smith said.

“And it’s the reason people move to Katy,” she said. “It’s the whole cornerstone of our community and we’re super proud of it. Any support that you can give, is just going to come back tenfold in your community.”

The teachers are “singularly qualified” to know what needs to be done to better reach the kids and educate them, Smith said.

Katy ISD Education Foundation Successes

“We figured out a way to tap funds right into to there - to plug them right there,” she said. “That’s going to do nothing but shore up our community and make it an even better place for a longer time.”

The event, which began in 2013, has sold out three years in a row (2014,2015, 2016), said Janet Theis, district executive director of community partnerships.

For $50 dollars, guests will enjoy food at eight different food trucks and beverages. For an additional $25, guests can upgrade to the VIP Bar Experience to access exclusive No Label brews, she said.

In six years, the Katy ISD Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that began as a way to fund Katy ISD teachers, has raised and awarded $1.3 million to teachers who have gone through the grant process, Smith said, noting that in the first year of existence the Education Foundation raised $88,000.

“Of the grants that are turned in, we only fund what we feel are really the grants of highest merit, so the ones that are really imaginative and the ones that are asking for something new and different,” Smith said, adding that a teacher asking for bulletin boards is not going to get a $1,000 grant.

“It has really be something that is outside the scope of what’s being done right now.”

Teacher-students projects

Individual teachers can be awarded $1,000, while groups of teachers can be awarded $5,000, Smith said.

Stephen Bennett, a concepts of engineering teacher at Tays Junior High School, has been awarded a grant four times in a row.

The first grant was an individual grant, so that he could get his students into learning electronics, so that they could eventually be interested in robotics clubs.

“The first year I wanted to get soldering stations, so I can teach the kids how to solder up electronic components onto motherboards to see how that all worked,” he said.

The next year, Bennett reapplied and sticking with the robotics theme, asked for a set of Arduinos - an open source computer hardware and software - and microcontrollers for his classroom. The grant was $1,000.

But the next year two years, the engineering teacher said he got ambitious and teamed up with other teachers to apply for $5,000 grants to fund a hydroponics farm where they received enough money to build six farms. The project was able to affect about 1,300 children in the school.

“Because it ended up getting tied into a Mars invention project that I do, it ended up being presented at the Space Center Houston and the kids were able to present it and take it down to the Children’s Museum in Houston and to a couple of different other venues as well,” Bennett said.

Bennett said attaching a hands-on experience to core curriculum studies improved the students’ understanding of those subjects.

“That’s why in core classes we’re starting to try to do a lot more of those applications projects, so that (students) have a deeper understanding when they come out,” Bennett said.

The Fireflies & Foodtrucks fundraiser takes place No Label Brewery on Thursday, Oct. 18 between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 in advance and $75 at the door.

The proceeds from the Fireflies & Foodtrucks fundraiser will directly impact the awards in May 2019.

michelle.iracheta@chron.com

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