Special needs educator Eileen Santiago has big dreams for her students, and recently one of those dreams was realized thanks to a $2,400 grant from the Broward Education Foundation (BEF). The Garden Delights-Team Up for Healthy Choices grant allowed students and teachers at Hollywood Park Elementary to create an on-site butterfly garden, edible garden and herb garden – the last of which was planted in January. Parents also are involved, as they are invited to view the children’s progress with their living creations and learn how to make and to promote healthy eating at home.
Inclusion of all students is another benefit of the project, according to Santiago. “The social interaction between all of the students is amazing,” she said, explaining that she enlists the aid of pre-K and kindergarten teachers at the school to bring the dream to life. This is not the first grant the four-year teacher has received from the Broward Education Foundation.
“When I first started teaching I had nothing,” she says. “Not even pencils for my class. Now, my classroom is filled with anything I could need. Without the Broward Education Foundation, I could do nothing.”
Focused on low-income Title 1 students, the Foundation assists in providing school supplies and materials to create innovative programming for those classrooms most in need. Santiago has received more than seven grants, but most of her core needs were met thanks to initial grants from BEF.
“I don’t stop,” continues Santiago. “I got my first grant months after being hired and I keep applying. My kids are my babies and I will do whatever it takes to make sure they have all the tools they need. Many of them don’t even have a proper meal at home, and I want to make sure that while they are here, they are taken care of.”
The Broward Education Foundation works to raise funds from corporate and individual donors throughout the year. They also provide scholarships for low-income students seeking a college degree. Santiago herself is working toward a master’s degree from Nova Southeastern University thanks to a scholarship nomination from an “angel” who was inspired by Santiago’s passion and drive.
“I tell other teachers about the wonderful grant programs BEF offers, and that they need to apply. I don’t believe it when someone says they don’t have the time. All you need is passion for your work and for your students. If you have the passion, you will find the time,” she said.
Thanks to BEF and its supporters, Santiago’s passion has resulted in a garden, which will grow along with her students.
Photo 1: (L to R) Rachel House; Jeremiah McDowell; Coco Burns, Broward Education Foundation; Broward County Public School Board Member Ann Murray;
Hollywood Park Elementary Principal Wendy Galinsky; and Shea Ciriago, Broward Education Foundation.
Photo 2: Yamila Diaz and Eileen Santiago
About the Broward Education Foundation:
Established in 1983, the nonprofit Broward Education Foundation (BEF) aligns with Broward County Public Schools by providing support for innovative teaching to advance Pre K-12 achievement; critically needed educational materials for Title I school teachers and students, and scholarships for qualified high school seniors. Each year, the Foundation contributes more than $2 million to Broward County schools, serving as the catalyst for educational excellence.
For more information, call 754-321-2030, visit www.browardedfoundation.org, like our Facebook page at facebook.com/browardeducationfoundation or follow us on twitter @BEF1.