UWF in the Community

UWF community programs awarded International Paper Foundation grants

The University of West Florida was recently awarded more than $13,000 in grants from the International Paper Foundation, which supports U.S. nonprofit organizations within the communities where International Paper has operating facilities.

The grants are divided among four programs at UWF, including the UWF Community Garden, BEST Robotics, Explore Summer Camps and the National Writing Project’s Summer Invitational Institute at UWF.

“We are privileged to be able to assist our local community organizations in their efforts to make a difference in the lives of residents and children of Northwest Florida,” said Janice Holmes, communications manager for International Paper Pensacola Mill. “Their efforts serve to strengthen our community.”

The UWF Community Garden received $5,000 – the largest IP Foundation grant awarded to the UWF Foundation, Inc. to date. Now entering its seventh year, the UWF Community Garden engages students and the general public in environmental education in the areas of organic gardening, with a focus on fruits, vegetables and flowering plants. The garden currently consists of six distinct educational areas: vegetable beds, an orchard, a native plant installation, a dry streambed to manage storm water, a composting area and a pollinator garden. This year’s grant will assist in the completion of a vertical gardening structure which will serve as the seventh educational area, providing a shaded area for hosting classes and free community workshops.

“We are working feverishly, trying to get the garden ready to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of UWF,” said Chasidy Hobbs, community garden volunteer and instructor and advisor in the UWF Department of Environmental Studies. “This could not be done without the generous support from our sponsors and donors like the IP Foundation, for which we are incredibly grateful.”

The Emerald Coast BEST Robotics Hub, hosted at UWF, was awarded $3,000 to purchase three new robotics kits for the 2016 competition, which will be held this fall in the UWF Field House. The annual, sports-like robotics competition – coordinated by UWF faculty, staff and community volunteers – is a program by BEST Inc., a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization with a mission to inspire middle and high school students to pursue careers in engineering, science and technology. BEST, which stands for Boosting Engineering Science and Technology, engages student teams across the country in analyzing and solving problems using the engineering design process to build robots that can perform a specific task.

The Emerald Coast hub provides materials kits to build the robots at no cost to participating students or schools, and kits are recycled each year so that schools can participate for years to come. The new kits purchased through the 2016 IP Foundation grant will enable the Emerald Coast hub to recruit first-time participants from area high schools.

“We are truly appreciative of the IP Foundation and other sponsors for their generosity and commitment to this exciting competition,” said Dr. Mohamed Khabou, professor and chair of the UWF Department of Engineering.

The IP Foundation awarded $3,000 to UWF’s Explore Summer Camps, which will be used to lower supply and material costs for 10 different five-day programs during Summer 2016. Explore Summer Camps focus on providing environmental and literacy education to local youth through themed programs. This summer, students in kindergarten through 11th grade can choose from two marine science camps and eight literacy camps focusing on Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, American Girl or LEGOs. By decreasing supply and material costs, the camp organizers aim to lower the tuition for the program so that they can reach a wider audience of children from varying income levels.

“This grant affords us the ability to continue offering hands-on and enriching experiences to campers without having to raise the cost of tuition,” said Valerie Taylor, youth education assistant director for the Division of Continuing Education. “Raising a generation that is conscientious about environmental issues is important to us, and the funds received from this grant will help in supporting that mission.”

The National Writing Project Summer Invitational Institute at UWF received $2,524 for the 2016 program. The summer institute is a three-week literacy education boot camp for Escambia County teachers, expanding to include Santa Rosa County starting next summer. Currently in its second year, the program is part of the National Writing Project, which focuses on the knowledge, expertise and leadership of our nation’s educators on sustained efforts to improve writing and learning for all students. The IP Foundation grant funds provided two meals and books to assist 20 local elementary and middle school teachers in writing instruction related to STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and math – education. It also allowed each of the 2016 NWP fellows who teach middle school to “Bring a Buddy” for a day, allowing even more teachers to experience the Summer Invitational Institute and utilize the skills they learned for their students during the next school year.

“The IP Foundation grant funding has been a tremendous gift,” said Dr. Susan James, Invitational Summer Institute founder and assistant professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Educational Leadership. “The NWP is, by far, the most amazing and ‘usable’ professional development for teachers. Without partnerships like IP, it would not happen. I cannot thank them enough.”