(Pictured above L to R: First Financial’s President/CEO, VP of Marketing and Business Development, and AVP of Business Development, with a group of students from H.C. Johnson Elementary’s aquaponic gardening classroom.)
FREEHOLD, N.J. – H.C. Johnson Elementary School media specialist Carrie Hogan and music teacher Missy O’Keeffe, were recently surprised by members of the First Financial Foundation with a $492.88 Erma Dorrer classroom grant for the 2019-2020 school year. Both educators have recognized the transformative power of service and social-emotional learning with the creation of the Jackson elementary school’s aquaponic garden.
Hogan and O’Keeffe submitted a grant application to purchase seeds, herbs, and soil for the elementary school’s aquaponics garden and lab located within the building’s library. The grant money will be used to provide the Jackson community with fresh vegetables and herbs, and crops from their micro-farm will be donated to the local food pantry to help those in need.
(Pictured above L to R: Grant recipients Carrie Hogan and Missy O’Keeffe with their aquaponic gardening students.)
“According to the Center for Food Action, one in every 10 New Jersey residents faces food insecurity, meaning they do not have an adequate, consistent supply of food. This affects young children, senior citizens, and many families in our local community,” said Hogan and O’Keeffe. “The guiding principle of our program is the belief that all students should be provided with a learning environment that supports and challenges their thinking. This classroom will provide students with the opportunity to take ownership over their own learning, and they will be given the chance to sharpen their critical thinking skills. Most importantly, it allows our students to see the impact that their own actions have upon their local community.”
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 seven (7) classroom grants to use at their schools for the 2019-2020 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,” said First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan.
Stephan also noted that the Foundation committee had a tough job of choosing just seven winning teachers out of the numerous applications received this year. “We received double the amount of classroom grant entries this year, which included heartwarming essays and videos from educators hoping to use the grant money to implement or maintain a variety of creative programs within their schools,” said Stephan. “We wish we were able to reward each and every one of our participants, and after extremely careful consideration we selected the seven initiatives in which we felt the grant money would have the largest impact.”