The Achieve Foundation Announces Fall 2021 Education Grant Award Recipients for SOMSD Schools

by The Achieve Foundation
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From The Achieve Foundation

The Board of Trustees at the Achieve Foundation, a nonprofit organization promoting high-quality education that prepares South Orange- Maplewood School District students for the future, has announced the recipients of their Fall 2021 Education Grant Awards. Local SOMA educators will receive $66,000 in grants that fund 34 varied projects and programs to support students in the areas of art, equity, music, STEM, special education, professional development, library materials and much more. 

“This year more than ever before we’ve seen an increase in grant applications particularly in areas that support social-emotional learning, special education, mental health and social work initiatives from teachers and administrators as they transition students back to in-person learning this fall,” said Eileen Collins Neri, Executive Director of Achieve. “We are so thankful to our vibrant and active community that supports our many events and fundraisers to make these educator grants possible for students in our public schools.”

Achieve received 48 applications in this grants cycle with requests for funding approaching $129,000. The grants selected this year by the grants committee and approved by the Achieve Foundation Board of Trustees include a diverse range of initiatives to address gaps in classroom, school and administrative services, many resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Some examples of initiatives that address social-emotional needs include support for mindfulness rooms at Marshall and Tuscan Schools, cafeteria enhancements for anxious and underserved students at SOMS, “Joyful Starts to the School Day” at Seth Boyden, Positive Action bullying prevention at MMS, and new materials and therapeutic tools for the social workers and social work interns throughout the District. 

Grants committee member Theresa Pasinoksy explained, “EVERYONE is struggling. Of course the students are adjusting to a return to school, but also the teachers because they are on the front lines supporting kids and working to get kids back to grade level. The teachers, social workers and school nurses should have any necessary tools at this time to support students.”

Additional highlights from a sample of the winning grants include the following:

  • Special Education initiatives that focus on socialization, inclusion and community-based instruction
  • Support for Columbia High School (CHS) All-School Musical licensing and staging
  • String instruments for middle school and elementary music programs
  • Black experience curriculum for CHS students: “Never Caught: the Story of Ona Judge” (personalizing US History I curriculum through the life story of an escaped slave) and “Paris Noir” (a look at the pioneering years of African American presence in Europe). 
  • Virtual author visit for all elementary school children (Susan Muaddi Darraj, author of the “Farah Rocks” books)
  • NJPAC/NJ Arts Education virtual residency at MMS teaching hip-hop culture, beat-boxing and dance
  • A wide-scale artist in residence program at Seth Boyden elementary “Self-Identity and Narrative in Nature”
  • STEM initiatives including “Bridge over Troubled Water” that applies geometry principles to design bridges
  • Professional development and support for new teachers at Clinton Elementary School 

A full list of the Achieve Fall 2021 award recipients may be found here… and community members are encouraged to review open funding opportunities on several grant proposals that were not fully funded by Achieve in this round. Anyone can donate directly to these initiatives thru October 31st. Please visit for more information.

Achieve’s Winter 2022 Grants:  The application for the next round of grant funding will be open from November 1 – December 10, with grants to be awarded by the end of January 2022. These “Deborah Prinz Educator Grants” will focus on broader-scale projects that benefit a school, grade level or academic discipline. Interested SOMSD educators who would like to submit a proposal may find the application on the Achieve website next month. 


The Achieve Foundation of South Orange & Maplewood is a registered 501(c)3 organization that promotes high-quality education that prepares South Orange-Maplewood School District students for the future. We support our students, families and educators by addressing inequities, inspiring innovation and fostering community. Since 1999, Achieve has invested over $4 million for programs that support education in South Orange and Maplewood. Public school funding is simply not enough to pay for the outstanding education that is a mainstay of our community. Achieve distributes funds for a wide range of programs that maintain excellence and innovation in education for all students and educators in our towns. You can help us Achieve even more in the future. Please donate today.  

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