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Blue Raider Foundation gives annual awards

How can high school students truly learn to apply global positioning technology unless they actually get outside and use it?

Tamaqua Area High School teacher Samantha Yachera wished she could find a way to make that happen.Thanks to the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation, a 501c3 charitable corporation which raises funds to support the school district, it will happen. Representatives from the foundation and school district administration, along with eight teachers who have been awarded grants from the foundation, met Saturday evening at The Vonz Restaurant, Tamaqua. The event was sponsored by Mauch Chunk Trust Bank.Foundation president Bob Miller said that teachers present grant requests that will enhance the learning experiences of their students. The school district supports the liaison, but the Blue Raider Foundation operates separately from the school district.During the past four years, the foundation has raised more than $70,000 which was used to fund projects outside the school district's budget. The nine awards presented Saturday will support programs that will involved 1,825 students, district Superintendent Carol Makuta said.It's a two-way street, Miller said."Remember our students are the products of us they learn and experience from us, and the environment that surrounds them is the environment that will influence and set their pathway for the future," Miller said. "It is our job and our responsibility to provide the environment and the pathway for the Tamaqua students today and of the future.""Tamaqua's commerce now and in the future depends on the molding of our students' education," he said. "We need their ideas, their entrepreneurship and their passion to help grow and prosper this Tamaqua area community."In addition to the grants presented annually to teachers, the foundation has also supported robotics and chemistry camps, college credit programs, and the district's interaction with Penn State University's Hazleton campus. On Saturday, the foundation also presented scholarship to the Class of 2014's top math students, Jared Sharpe and Rebecca Minehan. The top male and female athletes of the class, Michael Kelly and Joann Butkus, received the Joe Platchko Memorial Awards. Kelly and Butkus were unable to attend.Hannah Betz received the foundation's first journalism award through the support of R. Thomas Berner, a Tamaqua high school and Penn State University graduate, now retired from a journalism career. Betz will attend a journalism camp at the Penn State main campus.To date, the foundation has awarded 37 grants to teachers. Makuta said that each year, more and more teachers are getting involved."The teachers are working in teams and groups and bring activities into the community," Makuta said. "The foundation gives the teachers a greater opportunity to inspire and motivate our students."The recipients for the 2014 Blue Raider Foundation grants are:Samantha Yachera, Geocaching with Gifted Students.Jolene Barron, Learning with LEGOS: Simple Machines.Jillian Tuckett, Tamaqua Blue and White Magazine.Jim Betz, School Community Garden.Kailee Fowler, Family Math Night for Second Graders.Dr. Susan Featro, Building English and Content Knowledge Outside the Classroom, and iPad Mini Supporting English Language Learning.Kim Woodward, Story Stones.Caitlin Miller, Therapeutic Social Language Expansion for Students with Exceptionalities.The annual Blue Raider Foundation event was also supported by Schaeffer Drug Store, Skyview Cemetery, LCCC, and the law firm of Bowe, Lisella and Bowe, all off Tamaqua. Anyone wishing to become involved with the Blue Raider Foundation, or to donate, can contact any member of the Blue Raider Foundation: President Bob Miller, Vice President Walter Kruczek, secretary Jeff Bowe, treasurer Eric Zizelmann, executive administrator Johanna Ulicny, Deb Yuskauskas, Stephanie Akins, Dr. Kate Krapp and Rep. Jerry Knowles.

LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS Blue Raider Foundation President Bob Miller addresses the group at the foundation's annual meeting.