The Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation, an independent support group, continued its momentum recently with an array of initiatives in support of Tamaqua Area School District and its students. During its annual meeting, held at the Restaurant at the Station in Tamaqua, six teacher grants, totaling $3,000, were awarded to Tamaqua Area teachers.

The $500 grants were presented by Superintendent Carol Makuta.

Jolene Barron was the first grant recipient and has been a teacher in the school district for eight years. Currently she is a technology and computer coach for Tamaqua's three elementary schools. The topic of her grant is "Tamaqua Topics: A Picture Book Project."

Barron plans to use the grant award to purchase between two and four digital cameras to be used by her and her students. She will also subscribe to a free teacher subscription to Tikatok.com, which will guide her students through the process of researching topics, writing content for a picture book and taking pictures. The project will conclude with the purchase of completed books through Tikatok.com.

Receiving the second grant was Adriane Drum, who has been a teacher in the TASD for four years. She teaches language arts at the high school. The topic of her grant is "Classical Mythological Elective." She plans to use the money to purchase four sets of language arts books.

"These books will have the potential to affect up to 120 students during each semester," said Drum.

Susan Featro, who is in her second year as a teacher in the school district, was the third grant recipient. Featro serves as the English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher for the district. The topic of her grant is "Faithful Friends: A Presentation by an Author Who Has Researched the Holocaust Through Interviews with Survivors Whose Pets Experienced the Holocaust Alongside." Featro plans to use the grant award to fund a related presentation for high school students from Susan Bulanda, an author, speaker and animal behaviorist.

Sharing the fourth grant were Charise Fibrilla and Diane Michalik, who both teach at the Rush Elementary School in Hometown. Fibrilla has been a teacher in the district for seven years and Michalik for five years. Fibrilla, who teaches first grade, and Michalik, who teaches kindergarten, called the topic of their grant "Die Cut Supplies." They plan on using the shared grant to obtain die cut templates to provide teachers the opportunities to use a specialized AccuCut machine. They said the templates will help engage and inspire their students.

Awarded the fifth grant was special education teacher Krystal Schmauch, who has been a teacher in the school district for five years. Schmauch, who is also adviser of the Student Leadership Council Organization, said the topic of her grant is "Tamaqua Blue and White."

This project proposes the publication of a magazine associated with the high school and will contain articles and photographs that apply to the everyday lives of students. She plans on using the grant as a startup fund for her project.

Receiving the final TBRF grant was middle school art teacher Kimberly Woodward, who has been a teacher in the district for 12 years. The topic of her grant is "Community Mural." Woodward plans to use the $500 to have the seventh- and eighth-grade students create a mural on the Lafayette Street hill in Tamaqua.

"The mural will show a visual, historic timeline of where the community of Tamaqua starts, where Tamaqua is now, and what is planned for Tamaqua's future," said Woodward. "The mural will be used as a learning tool for years to come, in addition to adding a colorful and visual aesthetic for the area."

"Because of these awards, Tamaqua Area students will be afforded the opportunity to develop 21st century technical and artistic skills, which will enhance their educational experience," TBRF President Bob Miller said.

"Our students are products of us," Miller added. "They learn and experience from us. The environment that surrounds them is the environment that will influence and set the pathway for their future. Tamaqua's commerce now and in the future depends on the molding of our student's education."

According to Walter Kruczek, foundation vice president, the group also will provide an update on the renovation project of libraries in the schools.

In addition, the foundation is hoping to sponsor a dodge ball tournament this spring. Details will be announced in the TIMES NEWS.

The Blue Raider Foundation is a 501(c) 3 corporation that supports, promotes, sponsors and carries out educational, scientific and charitable activities and objectives related to the school district.

The foundation is privately established to assist the Tamaqua Area School District in funding projects that fall outside of the school district budget. Acting autonomously, the foundation enlists individuals, corporations and foundations in charitable resource-raising activities to assist students to achieve their maximum potential. No tax dollars are involved with the foundation. The group is intended to supplement the district and not replace other fundraising organizations, such as athletic and band boosters. It is also not an affiliate of the school board or the district's administration but operates independently.

Board members point out that tax deductible donations to augment the scholarship fund are welcome and can be made to: Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation, 109 West Broad St., Tamaqua, Pa. 18252. The address is the law offices of Bowe, Lisella & Bowe. Attorney Jeffrey P. Bowe serves as foundation secretary. Robert A. Miller, III, is foundation president; Michael W. Fegley is treasurer and James R. Zigmant holds the title of member-at-large.

A special announcement was also made relative to the Joseph M. Plasko Scholar-Athlete Scholarship Fund, which was created in June.

"The award will recognize the legacy of Plasko," Miller said, "a TIMES NEWS employee who supported education, arts and athletics in the Tamaqua Area School District. Plasko was serving as TIMES NEWS Tamaqua bureau chief when he passed away unexpectedly on March 22, one week after his 50th birthday."

"Joe seemed to know more about the athletes than we did sometimes," said Sam Bonner, Tamaqua's head football coach. He pointed out that Plasko never asked for anything, bringing up the one exception, when Plasko asked him for another Tamaqua Raider cap, after he lost his on a roller coaster with his wife Donna during their honeymoon in Disney World.