Bridget Clerkin | For The Times of Trenton By Bridget Clerkin | For The Times of Trenton on January 21, 2015 at 12:10 PM, updated January 21, 2015 at 12:11 PM

HAMILTON — Greenwood Elementary in Hamilton launched two new programs this year funded by grant money from the Hamilton Education Foundation.

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http://blog.nj.com/centraljersey_impact/print.html?entry=/2015/01/greenwood_elementary_school_hamilton_grant.html

The awards – worth $1,000 each, the largest amount available for a grant – mark the first time in the school’s history that Greenwood has been chosen for any grant money from the foundation.

“We were very excited,” Greenwood Principal Katherine Taylor said. “This is the first opportunity that Greenwood has had in terms of teachers winning the grants based on their ideas, so it was very exciting for us. I think it’s a very much needed service for our students, particularly when you are working to improve student achievement.”

The programs include a weekly reading-focused after school initiative called “Battle of the Books” and a twice-weekly tutoring program called “Helping Hands” that helps students acquire new learning strategies.

The Helping Hands program includes parents in sessions, to give them the tools to help their children with homework questions that might arise at home.

“It was amazing, truly amazing,” said Dayna Kowalski, who, along with teachers Michelle Gigliotti, Cynthia Marks and Melany Maro, wrote the proposal for “Helping Hands.” “Here at Greenwood, most of the teachers give back voluntarily on a daily basis, so to get a small amount of money to help participate was really nice.”

While the teachers still volunteer their time, Kowalski said the money for Helping Hands was used to purchase supplies like crayons, pencils and books for the children to bring home with them for extra help.

The students also get snacks every day before the program beings. Those purchases would normally be made out-of-pocket by the teachers, she said.

Kowalski said the most important factor in Helping Hands is the once-monthly meeting when parents join their children to learn new strategies together.

The Battle of the Books meetings are receiving a similar amount of enthusiasm from participants, according to Sherida Evans, who wrote the proposal for the program along with teacher Laura Palumbo.

“They show up every Tuesday, and they love it,” Evans said.

2/27/2015 Hamilton’s Greenwood Elementary launches two new programs with education foundation grants http://blog.nj.com/centraljersey_impact/print.html?entry=/2015/01/greenwood_elementary_school_hamilton_grant.html 2/2

The program pits groups of students against one another in reading comprehension competitions. Each group is tasked with writing questions about the novels they’re reading and seeing how well the other group can answer them. The program culminates with each child writing their own book.

“I wasn’t sure how it was going to go,” Evans said. “We don’t have a lot of programs here, and there’s the process of parents scheduling to pick up their kids, but we got really lucky with this group.”

When Taylor first called Evans into her office to announce that the school had received the grant, Evans wasn’t sure why she was being summoned by the principal, she said.

“She scared me. I was just thinking, ‘I’m in trouble for some reason,’” Evans said, laughing. “Then she told me about the grant and I said, ‘Oh my gosh!’ Once the initial shock wore off, I was very excited, and I said, ‘It’s time to go to work!’”

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