First Financial Foundation Awards Classroom Grant to Mary Pat Kochenash of Upper Freehold Regional School District

Press Release


Pictured Above: Mary Pat Kochenash of Upper Freehold Regional School District

WALL, N.J. – Upper Freehold Regional School District occupational therapist, Mary Pat Kochenash, was surprised by members of the First Financial Foundation with a $500 classroom grant for the 2015-2016 school year.

Ms. Kochenash submitted a grant application to purchase pencil grips for each student in pre-K through second grades, in her school. Pencil grips run about $10 for 6 grips and help students hold a pencil in the dynamic tripod grasp writing method, taught within the school. The classroom academic climate has accelerated and children are now asked to write at the age of three, when they are not typically developmentally ready until the age of six. As a result, children are coming into school significantly weaker in postural, upper body, and grasp strength – and because of this modern educational paradox, children have lost the traditional tripod grasp to hold a pencil or pen.

“This grasp is used to maneuver a writing instrument efficiently and smoothly across the paper.  It saves time and energy while writing and is a highly developed hand skill,” said Kochenash. “Children today use a much weaker, far less mobile grasp with a hyperextended thumb to compensate for hand weakness.” She noted that a classroom grant from the First Financial Foundation would help her students immensely.

Since First Financial began with a group of Asbury Park schoolteachers back in 1936, the credit union has not forgotten its educational roots. That is why its Foundation offered current Monmouth and Ocean County educators six (6) classroom grants to use at their schools for the 2015-2016 school year.

“Education has and always will be a pivotal piece of our organization, and we’re delighted to be able to help our local educators enhance their classroom experience,” noted First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan.

Stephan also noted that the Foundation committee had a tough job of choosing just six winning teachers out of the numerous applications received this year. “We received dozens of heartening essays from educators hoping to use the grant money to implement or maintain a variety of creative programs in their schools such as purchasing basic skills materials for struggling students, funding a thanksgiving feast for the less fortunate, integrating digital voice recorders for students to practice second languages, new tables for a classroom, iPads, updated software, and pencil grips for students in pre-K through 2nd grade – to name a few,” said Stephan. “We wish we were able to reward each and every one of our participants, and after extremely careful consideration we selected the six classrooms in which we felt the grant money would have the largest impact.”


About the First Financial Foundation: Since 1994, First Financial has supported the Monmouth & Ocean communities with the Erma Dorrer Scholarship Program. Today, that program has been extended into the First Financial Foundation to assist charitable organizations of the Monmouth & Ocean County Communities.  The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation is a non-profit working to support a variety of community programs and organizations throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties.  We direct 100% of your contributions to programs because all administrative expenses are paid for by First Financial Federal Credit Union.  To learn more, visit

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