Chariho students need your vote in a video competition for an international grant

Chariho students need your vote in a video competition for an international grant

reporter photo

WOOD RIVER JCT. — Students in the Chariho school district are competing against schools from throughout the United States, Canada and even Australia in the second annual Follett Grant Challenge.

Sponsored by the Illinois-based Follett Corporation, which produces electronic and printed education materials, the challenge asked schools to submit a written application and a video describing how their school has developed innovative programs focusing on the “21st Century skills” of collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking.

Follett’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Britten Follett, said the challenge provided a national platform for schools to share their programs.

“Time and time again, I hear one of the main challenges in education lies in sharing innovative programs with other schools, let alone the community that supports them,” she wrote in an email message. “So the Follett Challenge was specifically designed to provide a soapbox on which participants can stand to promote their program with a larger audience. With every entry, we are reminded how forward-thinking, passionate and dedicated educators are in their pursuit of preparing students for life beyond the confines of school, and that deserves to be shared. That’s why we developed the Follett Challenge.”

At stake are a $60,000 grand prize of Follett products and services, a $30,000 semi-finalist prize and a People’s Choice award worth $8,000. Members of the public are invited to vote on the videos, which will be available on the Follett website. A panel of judges will select the winners, but votes will count for 20 percent of a school’s overall score.

With guidance from principal Craig MacKenzie and assistant principal Andrea Spas, members of the Student Advisory Board prepared the grant application and the video. The advisory board, now in its second year, gives students a voice in decisions affecting the school.

“What they were asking was for an innovative program or something unique that you’re doing in your school building,” Spas explained. “One other criteria was to show how your students are acquiring essential skills… What better than our student advisory board to showcase as part of this challenge.”

Elizabeth LaCroix, a junior, chairs the advisory board and board member Christopher Sutcliffe, also a junior, produced the five-minute video.

LaCroix said applying for the grant and making the video had required the participation of a large team of advisory board members.

“Making the video, we had to schedule extra time to do that… and we also helped to write the grant,” she said. “I split up the work between the subcommittees. It didn’t feel like a lot for one individual person. It was split up, because we have 60 members in the entire SAB. We did spend a lot of time. We focused on it and it’s been a big part of what we’ve been working on for a while now.”

Sutcliffe said his video featured students talking about how their school implements and encourages collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking.

“The homelessness awareness sleep-out from last year, and I have some footage of the hydration stations and the business [classroom] chairs,” he said. “It’s really just people talking about things they see happening at our school.”

The video ended up coming in just under the five-minute limit, so Sutcliffe didn’t have to do a lot of cutting.

“I’m super happy with the video,” he said. “It came out just like I wanted it to. It took me a few tries with the intro, maybe the positioning of things, but it came out to be something I’m super proud of and I love how it showcases the SAB at their finest.”

The grant application and video had to be submitted by mid-December. Spas said the quality of the video was impressive, given the tight timeline.

“We had some timelines to meet, and Chris did a great job creating this video in a short span,” she said. “The quality of this video in such a short time frame was quite spectacular.”

People can see the video and cast their votes today through Jan. 26 at the Follett Grant Challenge website at: or






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