By: Alyssa Pry
The Northwest ISD Education Foundation – commonly referred to as NEF – is 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose goal is to enhance the quality of education in the Northwest Independent School District. Since NEF was founded in 1999, the organization has distributed $1.8 million to teaching grants and more than $600,000 to scholarships.
The foundation’s grant program allows teachers to take a more creative approach in the classroom by funding resources to engage students in meaningful learning opportunities. Grants from previous years provided unique opportunities such as “Growing Independent Readers” at Lakeview Elementary, which purchased Reader Pen assistive technology to help struggling readers and students with dyslexia by alleviating the stress associated with decoding words.
Projects have also supported students in overcoming learning obstacles like “Social Skills = Success in the Future” at Beck Elementary or “Sensory Matters” at Byron Nelson High School. Both grants were designed to create a sensory and social emotional learning space on campus to help students with learning difficulties, development disabilities or sensory impairments. The materials allow students to address sensory input needs, explore and learn about behavior and master the art of regulating their emotions.
Grants like these, along with the foundation’s senior scholarship program, have been the funding priority for more than 20 years. However, the challenges of the pandemic shed light on how many students needed support at home. Jennifer Burton, executive director of NEF, said as they spoke with employees across the district, they realized this was also a need for classroom teachers who were filling gaps for students every day. This understanding led to the creation of a district initiative fund to provide more support to additional student and staff areas of need.
“Establishing the fund has given us an opportunity to serve the whole student – both inside and outside of the classroom,” Mrs. Burton said. “When students have the supplies they need to learn, they can thrive in the classroom.”
Last October, NEF officially opened its resource store and library, where teachers can “shop” for school and classroom supplies, snack packs, books and personal items for students in need. All items are free to district educators, who will use them in their classroom to support students.
Last school year, every NISD school utilized the resource store benefiting a total of 899 teachers and 16,515 students. As the district continues to grow, Mrs. Burton said families and community members will play a critical role in making programs like this possible. To learn more about NEF programs and how you can get involved, visit the foundation’s website at www.nisdtx.org/nef.