Naperville Education Foundation’s 2016 WOW! Prizes

Last year the Naperville Education Foundation, or NEF, gave out their first ever WOW! Prizes to celebrate surpassing one million dollars in grant funding. And this year, they were at it again.

Naperville North’s Janet Taylor and Anna Kraftson really WOWed the NEF trustees with their grant proposal for an interactive art gallery, earning them the 2016 WOW! Prize for the fine arts category.

“As we were talking we thought, wouldn’t it be kind of cool to have a touch screen kiosk where you could interact with the students’ artwork. So the artwork is in the display case, but then you could touch on their artwork and it could respond with maybe the artist talking about their artwork,” said Taylor, an adapted art instructor at Naperville North High School.

They were just one of five to win a WOW! Prize this year, with each being selected because their proposal knocked the judges’ socks off.

“Our mission is to encourage creativity, innovation and excellence in our students so those are exactly the kinds of things we are looking for,” said Ann Spehar, Executive Director of the Naperville Education Foundation.

The WOW! Prize for the math and science category went to Kennedy’s Michael Klick, an engineering teacher who will use the funds to help students design a vacation home run completely by alternative energies.

“This allows them to sketch that, we do that in a 3-D modeling program, but then we take that and we’ll print that out, that floor plan out, that house out and construct it out of foam board,” said Klick.

The cultural studies category was won by a group aiming to expand the SUCCESS program, which focuses on closing the achievement gap by creating a community for African-American parents in District 203.

“For the students at a micro level, this really means connecting them and their families in a more close and intimate way to not only our district, but their home schools and education,” said Allison Polk, a parent of two at Mill Street Elementary School.

Elmwood’s Sandra Volling won the WOW! Literacy Prize with a spooky reading proposal.

“This is going for a ‘Dark and Spooky Reading Night,’ a night where students are able to choose their level of spookiness and have stories read to them that will hopefully inspire them to pick up books and to enjoy reading and get back to that joyful learning,” said Volling, a Reading Specialist at Elmwood Elementary.

And Connections won the WOW! Prize in the general category, giving them additional funds to purchase supplies for their business, microConnections.

“It is the district formally recognizing and wanting to support what we’re doing here, and so for that it just means so much to all of us at connections to know that we have the district’s support in that way,” said Maura Anderson, Supervisor of Transition Services at Connections.

All the WOW! winners have received full funding for their projects.

Naperville News 17’s Evan Summers reports.

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