Irvine Public Schools Foundation Awards $200,000 in Innovative Grants to Irvine Schools

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

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Each year, Irvine Public Schools Foundation (IPSF) offers teachers, staff, and students in the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) the opportunity to apply for funds through the Innovative Grants Program. Given the challenging economic and educational environment created by the global pandemic, IPSF’s Board of Trustees pledged to maintain total grant funding at the 2019 level. This year’s program in total will award 25 projects and over $200,000 in grant monies to support innovative teaching and counseling methods in schools. The purpose of this grant program is to support innovation in schools by awarding funds to launch new curriculum or projects to improve the educational experiences of students.

In addition to awarding 16 grants up to $5,000 to teachers, counselors, and students, IPSF awarded nine mega grants, up to $20,000 each, to provide educators an opportunity to create an even greater impact on their schools and students through innovation. Grant projects awarded include innovation labs, robotics technology, media equipment, literacy app, virtual reality, and musical instruments.  

“Although this year has presented many challenges for the teaching community, we were so impressed by the level in creativity and innovation this year’s participants brought forth in their grant submissions,” explains Neda Eaton, President & CEO of Irvine Public Schools Foundation. “We are proud to support IUSD educators who are passionate about elevating student learning in both virtual and in-person instruction far beyond standard academic curriculum. We are also thankful to our community and sponsors who help make these grants possible for our students.” 

Funding for this year’s Innovative Grants Program is made possible by corporate donations from Edison International, PPG Foundation, Assistance League of Irvine, and Exchange Club of Irvine, as well as parent donations to another IPSF program, Parents Appreciating Teachers and Staff (PATS), sponsored by Schools First Federal Credit Union.

Since 1996, IPSF’s Innovative Grants Program has awarded over $2 million to teachers and counselors, benefiting over 200,000 students since the program's inception. 

The 2021 recipients were honored at a special virtual awards announcement on March 3. Watch it here:



School: Bonita Canyon Elementary School
Recipients: Anne Marquand
Name of Grant: Robotics and Coding - STEAM at its Best!

School: Brywood Elementary School
Recipients: Melody Rodriguez
Name of Grant: Bringing the World to ALL Students

School: Early Childhood Learning Center
Recipients: Amy Kadell and Tina Lo
Name of Grant: The Love of Literacy

School: Irvine High School
Recipients: Tim Jacobs
Name of Grant: Anatomy in Clay

Department: IUSD High School Instrumental Music
Recipients: Bob Avzaradel & Derek Venlet (IHS), Ben Case & Whitney Tavlarides (NHS), Corey Heddon & Grace Lee (UHS), Joslynne Blasdel & Brad Harris (WHS), Desmond Stevens & Kyle Traska (PHS)
Name of Grant: Music Performance in a Time of COVID-19

School: IUSD Virtual Academy
Recipients: Kris Linville
Name of Grant: RazKids for IVA Kids

School: University High School
Recipients: Alexa Stephens and Dominic Fratantaro
Name of Grant: Innovation Lab for Media Convergence

School: Vista Verde Middle School
Recipients: Liane Martin
Name of Grant: VEX IQ Robotics Lab for Elementary Students

School: Woodbridge High School
Recipients: Rob Blaney
Name of Grant: Keyboards & Microphone



School: Eastwood Elementary School
Recipient: Jon Nakano      
Name of Grant: Wellness for Life              

School: Portola High School        
Recipients: Jill Cavotta, Amanda D'Avila, Madeline Greenwood, Kathy Hooper & Brianna Rapp
Grant Name: Expanding Student Agency and Voice Through Diverse Literature           

School: University Park Elementary School
Recipient: Carrie Finley-Bajak     
Name of Grant: Lights, Camera, Action!  
In partnership with Assistance League of Irvine

School: Northwood High School  
Recipient: Kimberly Rohrs           
Name of Grant: Drawing into the Future

School: Portola High School  
Recipients: Amanda Cramer & Melissa Misenhimer      
Name of Grant: Challenge Your Reading!           

School: Turtle Rock Elementary School
Recipient: Lisa Hoertig                 
Name of Grant: Bringing the Library Into the 21st Century            

School: Early Childhood Learning Center
Recipients: Kristi Ecarma, Michelle Jo & Hannah Nanson               
Name of Grant: Facilitating Inclusive Practices During Early Childhood Through Access to STEM Labs             

School: Irvine High School
Recipient: Sheryl Sloate               
Name of Grant: Virtual Dance Concert   

School: Portola High School    
Recipient: Donovan Miller    
Name of Grant: Multi-Purpose Ceramic Kiln         

School: Northwood High School
Recipient: Melissa Misenhimer  
Name of Grant: Contactless Bibliotherapeutic Resources              

School: Lakeside Middle School 
Recipient: Danielle Morris
Name of Grant: The Beanstack Readers  

School: Cadence Park School      
Recipient: Karen Sposato
Name of Grant: Creative Music-Making  

School: Westpark Elementary School
Recipient: Katie Aldama
Name of Grant: Joyful Heart, Joyful Mind             
In partnership with Exchange Club of Irvine



School: Portola High School
Recipients: Simrah Ahmad, Saoud Moon & Shailee Sankhala        
Name of Grant: Crossroads Initiative
In partnership with Assistance League of Irvine

School: Northwood High School
Recipients: Shani Lin & William Pan         
Name of Grant: High School Student Forum: COVID-19 Care Packages

School: Woodbridge High School 
Recipient: Mark Sotnikov
Name of Grant: Those Who Inspire Us
In partnership with Assistance League of Irvine

About Irvine Public Schools Foundation

Irvine Public Schools Foundation (IPSF) is a nonprofit organization with the mission of enriching the educational experience of each child in every school. Founded in 1996 by concerned parents and community leaders, IPSF sponsors enrichment programs and provides financial support to ensure educational excellence in Irvine schools. In addition, IPSF excels at uniting local corporate and community partners, parents and residents in raising funds to nurture student potential. Each year, IPSF provides millions of dollars in funding to Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) to support STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education, small-group learning, afterschool and summer programs, grants for classroom innovation, and support for mental health initiatives, athletic trainers and school nurses. For more information about IPSF, visit

Category: Education News, Partner News, Greater Irvine Chamber