AOL Awards Grants to Middle and High Schools

    September 29, 2004

Literacy and mentoring programs, media and technology advancement, career counseling, ethics seminars and character-building initiatives are among the innovative approaches to realizing the dreams of youth that will be supported by the third annual AOL Aspirations Fund grants, announced today by America Online.

AOL, the world’s leading interactive services company, awarded grants of up to $10,000 each to 11 middle schools and high schools from Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland to implement 2004-2005 school-based programs designed to nurture the life goals and aspirations of youth. For the first time, the AOL Aspires program expanded to award grants in three additional cities where AOL offices are located. Selected schools in Albuquerque, Columbus, and Jacksonville were also awarded $10,000 each to fund their proposed school-based programs, bringing to 14 the total number of new AOL Aspires grantee schools.

The grants provide flexible resources that empower educators in their quest to help raise students’ aspirations. The types of efforts supported by the grants include student-led media projects, college awareness activities, intergenerational programs, diversity training, leadership development and restructuring of school efforts to actively engage students in the learning process.

In addition to this year’s grants for new initiatives, AOL also awarded renewal grants to 20 existing AOL Aspires schools to continue the success of efforts they initiated with their initial grant award. Grant winning schools are eligible for partial renewal grants for two years after being selected as an AOL Aspires school. To date AOL has awarded more than a half-million dollars in grants to local schools.

“The AOL Aspires program, in its third year, continues to create opportunity and encourage students to chart a course to realizing their potential,” said Jon Miller, Chairman and CEO of America Online, Inc. “The AOL Aspires program is the core of America Online’s philanthropic efforts to recognize and promote leadership among educators who encourage youth to aspire and achieve in both their academic and personal lives. We have seen the evolution of the initial grant programs and are excited and optimistic about the future of these AOL Aspires initiatives.”

Public schools from the greater DC-metro area, Albuquerque, Columbus, and Jacksonville were eligible to apply for the AOL Aspires grants. The schools were asked to submit proposals outlining programs they would offer to help their students establish and achieve their academic and personal aspirations. Proposals from the schools were then reviewed by a committee of AOL employee volunteers who, in turn, visited each school and made grant recommendations.

AOL Aspirations Fund 2004-2005 Grant Recipients:

Dominion High School – Loudoun County, VA

The AOL Aspirations Fund will enable Dominion High School to expand its after-school program for English as a Second Language (ESL) students from one day to two days per week. Students in the program will also earn points toward the purchase of Palm Pilots, and faculty will receive training to help them work more effectively with students. The goals of this program are to narrow the achievement gap and the technology gap and to increase parent participation.

Heritage High School – Loudoun County, VA

With its AOL Aspirations grant, Heritage High School will help language minority students to achieve success in high school and prepare for life after high school. The school’s International Study Group Scholarship Program meets four days per week after school. Students who attend and meet the program’s qualifications will receive a $500 scholarship for their post-secondary education. Faculty feels that building a sense of belonging and connection to their high school and community will encourage Limited English Proficiency students to see beyond the day-to-day aspects of school. The goal is to help these students improve their grades and receive scholarships so they can take advantage of educational opportunities offered in the United States.

Seneca Ridge Middle School – Loudoun County, VA

With its AOL Aspirations grant, Seneca Ridge Middle School plans to eliminate cost as a barrier for students who want to participate in the band program. Through Project High Note, the school will purchase musical instruments and equipment, help with necessary repairs and upkeep of instruments, offer assistance with the cost of uniforms for band members, and provide after-school tutorial sessions provided by local music specialists for about 50 students with financial need. By removing some of these prohibitive costs, school staff hope to maximize student participation, enable more students to participate, and help students to develop self-confidence and self-discipline through involvement with the band.

Gunston Middle School – Arlington County, VA

Gunston Middle School will fund the SOLAR (SOL Academic Reinforcement) Academy with its AOL Aspirations grant. The SOLAR Academy involves mandatory group study sessions for 8th graders who have failed their 5th and 7th grade SOLs and continue to demonstrate poor academic performance. Goals are to increase student performance in the classroom, strengthen students’ academic skills so they will pass SOL tests, and reduce off task and disruptive classroom behavior by increasing student academic confidence. Courses covered by group study sessions will include Math, English, World Geography, Physical Science, Reading and a component to teach students how to plan and organize.

Francis C. Hammond Middle School – City of Alexandria, VA

The AOL Aspirations Fund will allow the Francis C. Hammond Middle School to create an all-male literacy club, called “Club BILI”, in an effort to improve the substandard reading scores of male students. Members of this club will participate in monthly genre book clubs, attend book store author visits, hear from authors on site, make book selections at local bookstores and promote literacy practices with younger male readers. In addition, book club members and their parents will attend literacy events at the school, and the Club BILI Committee will provide male readers and their families with free books, magazines, other materials, and mentor role models.

Manassas Park Middle School – City of Manassas Park, VA

With the help of their AOL Aspirations grant, Manassas Park Middle School plans to implement the STARS (Scholars Together Aspiring to Reach Success) Program. STARS will pair at-risk students in grades 7 and 8 with two mentor teachers and two guidance counselors to experience new opportunities and challenges. The mentors and scholars will meet before, during and/or after school to engage in team building and leadership activities. Teachers will organize a speaker series with specific topics geared towards middle level adolescents that inspire success. The students will learn about career opportunities outside their community and visit local colleges. Through opportunities to be leaders, experience a variety of opportunities outside of school, and develop close relationships with mentor teachers and guidance counselors, at-risk students will build skills for life and have more success in the school learning environment and in the future.

Robert E. Lee High School – Fairfax County, VA

Project LEAP (Lee Ethics Action Program) exposes students to ethics issues in an effort to create a more positive atmosphere in the school. School faculty believes exposure to ethics content will help students develop a greater appreciation of the school’s diversity while achieving greater academic and social success. Ethics seminars at Lee High School, which serves an ethnically diverse population, have met with success in the past. With its grant, the school will expand the program to incorporate ethics issues including alcohol and drug use, peer conflict and resolution and cyber-ethics.

Mountain View Alternative High School – Fairfax County, VA

Mountain View Alternative High School plans to use its AOL Aspirations grant to restructure its library/media center into a cyber-style “Student Center”. Mountain View resembles a community college in instruction and organization. Much like community college students, Mountain View students will benefit from a multi-purpose, technology-based space where they can gather to study, collaborate, research and plan. The new cyber-style “Student Center” will include laptop computers, multi-media stations and a designated post-secondary/transition planning area. The school will also use this facility as a gallery for student projects.

Benjamin Banneker Academic High School – Washington, DC

Benjamin Banneker Academic High School plans to use its AOL Aspirations grant to reach many students through several programs. It will create a “lending library” so students in-need can borrow graphing calculators on a yearly basis to assist with SAT exams and coursework. In addition the Aspires grant will provide support for the school’s “It’s Academic Team” tournament and robotics team. In addition, the Aspires leadership team plans to equip one classroom with a computer projector and notebook computer.

C. Melvin Sharpe Health School – Washington, DC

C. Melvin Sharpe Health School has designed the TEAMS (Technology, Education and AOL Marketing Special Students) project, a collaborative model that provides and coordinates assistive technology services to students with disabilities to support their transition into the workplace. The project will develop an assistive technology evaluation instrument to identify students’ strengths and needs relative to a potential career goal, provide assistive technology to maximize performance and access, and provide training and follow-up as students transition into the workplace

Sligo Middle School – Montgomery County, MD

With their AOL Aspirations grant, Sligo Middle School plans to launch “Three, Two, One, Blast Off…” This project creates a partnership between parents and teachers of sixth grade students who are underachieving in mathematics. At monthly evening classes, parents will learn what their children are learning in school, use computers to gain hands-on experience with online math websites, and learn how to use games and manipulatives at home with their children. Teachers will conduct after-school activities for students to reinforce math concepts, and will arrange field trips to local colleges and businesses to explore mathematical job opportunities and real life applications. They will also invite speakers from math-related careers to “Positive Role Model/Career Day” at the school.

Freedom High School – Albuquerque, NM

Freedom High School plans to use its AOL Aspirations Fund grant to research and develop a Student Based Health Center (SBHC) to support the physical and mental health needs of Freedom High School students and their families. Through the SBHC, the school hopes its students will be healthier physically and mentally, resulting in less absenteeism, higher graduation rates and greater success with higher education and careers.

Andrew Jackson High School – Jacksonville, FL

With support from the AOL Aspirations Fund, Andrew Jackson High School is planning to expand its Renaissance Program, created to recognize, encourage, celebrate and reward the academic achievements of its students. Initiated two years ago, the Renaissance Program issues Renaissance Cards, based on nine-week GPAs, that provide entrance to a variety of reward events. The school now plans to increase visibility of the Renaissance concept and add several new components, including a trip to the National Jostens Renaissance Conference, a “Leadership Class” for students on the student team, and a parent/community “Renaissance Day”. Goals of the program include increased academic performance, attendance, and pursuit of post-secondary education.

The Arts IMPACT Middle School – Columbus, OH

The AOL Aspirations Fund grant will enhance the Arts IMPACT Middle School’s Constructivist Digital Media Project (CDMP), enabling the school to more effectively engage students through authentic learning activities. The CDMP will enable students to gain expertise in technology, explore possible career interests and help develop the school as a digital community. Specific objectives are for every student to become proficient by 8th grade in the educational and creative use of digital photography, graphics, audio recording and video, and to connect students with local broadcast and media production representatives through educationally enriching experiences.

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