ST. GEORGE — With a desire to make a difference and help fund teacher grants, locally owned business Paparazzi Accessories donated $150,000 to the Washington County School District Foundation, which is the largest single contribution in the foundation’s history.
Steven Dunham, district communications director, told St. George News the money will be combined with other funds, such as endowments and other donations, and put toward teacher grants that are aimed at enhancing student learning. In the past, grants have been used to buy classroom technologies that increase student engagement.
Dunham said teachers don’t have the money for these types of things, and typically “they’ll spend their own money.”
Paparazzi Accessories co-founder Misty Kirby told St. George News that what inspired them to make such a generous donation is that they were really looking for a concerted way to make a difference in the community.
Despite having grown up here, Kirby said she and the other co-owners of the jewelry and fashion accessories maker had never heard about the school board foundation until she learned about it from a neighbor. Through a further investigation into how the foundation uses monetary donations, they found it aligned perfectly with their goal. She said if they wanted to make an impact on the community directly, one of the best places to start was in the classroom.
“The teacher grant program is exactly that,” she said. “The fact that teachers can do something that stays in the classroom, and it gives them an extra experience that the kids wouldn’t have otherwise, certainly does improve their education all the way across the board.”
They met with the foundation privately to tell them about their donation.
Dunham said when he was told about the donation, he started to cry.
“I’ve never seen a donation that large, and I was overwhelmed with joy, with excitement, with what an impact that will make on our teachers,” he said.
This year, 733 teachers have applied for grants totaling nearly $325,000. Grants are reviewed by a committee to ensure they meet all requirements, such as providing an itemized list of purchases, so teachers know it’s not just a “blank check for the classroom.”
“That’s very important to us, that we make sure the money is going to benefit the education of the students,” he said. “We go through and audit those very closely to ensure that’s that’s what it is. That’s how we ensure great learning is taking place in our classrooms.”
Oftentimes, teachers buy items that can be used for years.
Kirby said their hope with donating $150,000 is that no teacher with an adequate need would be turned away.
“Our goal is to let the kids know, to let the teachers know, the administration know, that as community members we appreciate them. We love what they’re doing, and this is a way we can be supportive,” she said. “In all fairness and not in a cheesy way, they are educating the future of America. And right now we need strong, vibrant, happy positive kids who can conquer anything.”
Chani Reeve, a co-founder for Paparrazzi, told St. George News that while they don’t usually allow recognition for these types of things, the reason they were open to it was to help spread awareness about the foundation and how others can help.
“We just believe you serve to serve. You don’t do it for the recognition. That’s how we were raised and how we are hopefully raising our kids.”
Kirby added that their mission statement as a company has to do with empowerment, which is all about doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, not for the purpose of receiving accolades.
“If you believe truly in empowerment, the reason you do good in the world, the reason you serve, the reason that you’re willing to donate, the reason you’re willing to give of your time should be an intrinsic response.”
Dunham said despite the effects from the pandemic, this has been a better year for the foundation. Combined with the other fundraised money, donations and endowments, he said they are expecting a “very good year for teacher grants.”
“We actually anticipated this might be a down year considering things with the pandemic. And, really, it’s been a lot better. Businesses have been so generous to our teachers,” he said. “I think it shows the level of support for our teachers and appreciation for what our teachers are doing for the children in this community.”
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