How do you get an engineering teacher to dance? The Friendswood ISD Education Foundation (FEF) answered that question when it received a record-breaking $71,846 grant on Dec. 1 from Texas Mutual Insurance Company.
The Texas Mutual Workforce Development and Safety Grant was created with the intention of creating opportunities to train students to become productive, safe members of the Texas workforce. Once she learned of the grant in October, FEF Executive Director Ashley Adair collaborated with Susan Kirkpatrick, executive director of career and technical education, and Nishi St. John, college a career specialist, to discuss how Friendswood High School (FHS) could benefit from applying.
The team narrowed in on the new bond-funded engineering lab. FHS engineering teachers Derek Carter, Jim Foreman and Chris Meaux created a wishlist for tools and resources including a laser cutter, 3D printer, drill press, bench grinder, pipe bender, band saw and plasma cutter. With that, the group submitted its application.
Just two months later, Adair received the news that their grant was one of 38 to be selected for funding across the state. Everything from their wishlist would be funded.
In a surprise visit to FHS, FEF revealed the news to the three engineering teachers and their students: a moment that was filled with immense joy and even some happy dancing.
“Seeing the excitement on their faces and knowing the opportunities this is going to bring to life for students in our engineering, robotics and rocketry programs was priceless,” Adair said. “This grant will allow these students to explore their strengths and passions before leaving the four walls of FHS and entering the workforce.”
That is the exact purpose of the grant according to Texas Mutual Community Affairs Manager Jackie Sekiguchi.
“The organizations receiving this funding have been essential in providing a steady and trained workforce for their communities,” Sekiguchi said. “We are proud to recognize their commitment to educating and supporting the local workforce, and especially proud to be part of their continued success.”
Adair said the grant represents “exactly what the Foundation is all about.”
“It will create meaningful connections between Friendswood ISD and the community to provide hands-on, real-world learning experiences for students,” she said.
Foreman shared that one of the primary goals of the grant is to increase the enrollment of girls in engineering.
“As a father with two daughters of my own that resonates with me a lot,” Foreman said.
Meaux also spoke of his excitement.
"This grant will provide the opportunity for us to do so many great things for the students, and this is only the beginning,” Meaux said. “We have big dreams for this Engineering Department and we cannot thank Texas Mutual enough for believing in our vision and our students."