Success Story: Using Grants and Local Money to Provide Enhanced Services to Children
Robert Maxwell, SLP
Sedalia Elementary School, North Carolina
About Robert's path to success:
What did you do?
In an ongoing attempt to improve the learning environment for all the students enrolled at my current school-based placement, I began researching the benefits of voice amplification systems in the classroom setting. After reviewing the available research, I presented the benefits of this technology to my school's administration and PTA board. Despite support from both parties, there was little funding available to support this project. At this time, I began submitting local and federal grant proposals to acquire the additional funds needed to begin this initiative. While waiting to hear the decisions regarding the submitted grant applications, I began presenting the idea to local charitable organizations and businesses in the community. Through the support of school officials, and the generous donations made by various members of the community, I was able to start the Front Row Project at my school and use technology to make all students feel as if they have front row seats.
What were the challenges you faced?
The most difficult challenge associated with this project was acquiring funding. Despite evidence to support the efficacy of this technology with regard to improving early literacy skills and attention, school budgets have little funding to support line items outside the realm of traditional services.
What was the outcome of your effort?
Thanks to the support of my school administration, and generosity of the local community, we were able to install nine voice amplification systems in the classroom setting. My current placement offers voice amplification systems in at least one classroom per grade level (Pre-K through fifth grade). Classroom teachers are experiencing an increase in student attention and a decrease in off-task behavior. As time passes, we will monitor the effects of amplified instruction on student achievement and standardized test scores. Classroom teachers are also reporting a decrease in vocal fatigue/vocal abuse that is leading to greater job satisfaction.
What advice would you give others?
If fellow speech-language pathologists are interested in pursuing an idea similar to the Front Row Project or any initiative that requires funding sources, they should look outside of the school setting to find financial support. Many charitable groups are routinely looking for new initiative/programs that benefit the local community. Forming a healthy relationship with your local PTA can lead to internal funding and leads to new donors. Over the course of the past year, I have received donations ranging from $20 to over $4,000 to support the Front Row Project, and each contribution has played a role in the success of the project. If you are truly passionate about an idea, you must be willing to put in the effort and time outside of your typical job description. If that means attending late night PTA board meetings, using your lunch break to present your idea to a local organization, going door-to-door to local business, writing countless grant proposals, etc., it will all be worth it when you see your ideas come to fruition.