Hammonton Education Foundation awards nearly $16,000 in grants for 2021-2022 school year


HAMMONTON — The Hammonton Education Foundation awarded $15,708 worth of grants that will fund four projects in the public school district during the 2021-2022 school year.

The nonprofit foundation’s board of trustees unanimously approved the grants, for which teachers had to apply.

The foundation — a recognized 501(c)(3) organization that raises money to fund innovative projects in the local public schools — has awarded more than $536,268 worth of grants since 2005.

“The Hammonton Education Foundation’s ability to enhance the quality of education for students in the public school district is only possible because of the tremendous support we receive from the community,” said Johanna R. Johnson, Ed.D., chair of the foundation’s program allocations committee. “On behalf of our trustees, I want to express our gratitude to everyone who has contributed to our organization’s success by sponsoring, attending or supporting our fundraisers.”

This year’s grant awards will fund one project at each of the district’s four schools. The projects are as follows:


Early Childhood Education Center


A $5,100 grant will help create a WE Move: Wellness + Education Trail.

A large paved oval path behind the ECEC will feature several playscapes to support students’ physical and mental development. 

Components will include a nature motor sensory path with stepping stones and jumping logs, as well as a fitness activity circuit that will allow students to do hopping routines, jumping jacks and lunges. A hopscotch pattern will be incorporated into the trail to help students improve number recognition.

A gazebo will be placed in the center of the trail. This will provide teachers space to conduct outdoor lessons, while also serving as a “mindful movement garden” where students can manage their anxiety and increase their body awareness.

The goal is to give students a place to be fit, have fun and stay engaged in school, health and physical education teacher Amy Heggan wrote in her application.

“Even though the ECEC is an amazing place for students to learn and thrive, we are short on space and in need of a refreshing outdoor space,” Heggan wrote. “Research shows that movement supports brain development and cognition. Sensory integration movement allows children to develop the ability to complete complex learning tasks. The wellness and education trail will help to improve the physical and mental development of our students while also allowing them to learn in a fun and exciting way.”


Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School


A $4,170 grant will purchase an Inchy Bookworm Vending Machine, which can hold up to 300 books.

Teachers and members of the administration will develop a schoolwide incentive program. Once established, staff members can recognize student achievement and behavior by giving them a token to visit the vending machine. Students will use the tokens to choose from a variety of age-appropriate, high-interest books.

The program is designed to build reading engagement, reward positive behavior, increase literacy and build family libraries.

Proceeds from the annual Scholastic Book Fair will generate the proceeds needed to stock the machine, media teacher Jennifer Brittin wrote in her application.

“Although incentive-based programs often focus on extrinsic rewards, this program will reap intrinsic value for students, as well,” Brittin wrote. “By offering books as rewards, students will feel recognized for accomplishments while choosing a prize that will benefit their literacy development and esteem.”


Hammonton Middle School


A $2,000 grant will establish a food pantry that will serve up to 400 economically disadvantaged students in sixth through eighth grades.

The pantry will be stocked with food, hygiene products, clothing and school supplies purchased from ShopRite, Walmart and other local businesses.

New Jersey’s School Performance Report indicates 45.5% of Hammonton Middle School’s population is considered economically disadvantaged. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the need for a pantry, according to eighth-grade teachers Richard Baker and Megan Goblirsch.

“Our ultimate goal is to provide students with their basic needs to have a fulfilling experience at Hammonton Middle School,” Baker and Goblirsch wrote in their application. “This pantry will not solve the economic struggles of our community. ... But as teachers ... [we] know students that lack their basic needs will struggle to achieve.

“This pantry is more than just food and school supplies; it’s a belief — the belief that we all play a role in raising the children that walk through our hallways,” Baker and Goblirsch added.

The middle school pantry will be modeled after the Blue Devils Pantry at Hammonton High School, funded through a $7,500 grant from the Hammonton Education Foundation in 2019. The pantry provides food, clothing and other essential items to students with unmet needs. A washer and dryer also are available to help students who are unable to clean their clothing at home.


Hammonton High School


A $4,437 grant will purchase fitness equipment that can be used in physical education classes.

A variety of dumbbells, kettlebells, mini bands, medicine balls and fitness mats will be used to create 30-minute workout routines. The routines will provide students with quality strength and conditioning training while helping to motivate and encourage students to improve their health and wellness.

“The goal of these workouts is to reach all kids, not just athletes,” Matthew Silvesti, a health/physical education teacher and assistant coach for the wrestling and volleyball teams, wrote in his application. “I believe this equipment will go far beyond just improving the physical health of students. It is scientifically proven that exercise increases cognitive function. I believe having healthier students will positively impact our academic performance as a school. ... Exercise is also a great confidence booster. Students with more confidence will feel better about themselves and improve interactions with others.”

Silvesti hopes use of the equipment will extend beyond physical education classes. He intends to seek administration approval to expand strength training for high school sports teams. He also is developing a proposal to offer certified fitness training to students and staff members after school.