Nonprofit awards $10,000 to Michigan’s Traverse City area public schools

The Art and Mary Schmuckal Family Foundation grant will aid the efforts of TCAPS' Intense Student Support Network


Michigan’s Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Art and Mary Schmuckal Family Foundation to aid the efforts of its Intense Student Support Network (ISSN).

Established in 1999, the Art and Mary Schmuckal Family Foundation is a non-profit that provides financial aid to other 501(c)(3) organizations, including those working in religion, health and education, that serve the citizens of the greater Grand Traverse region (and beyond).

The Traverse City Area Public Schools ISSN program works to identify the non-academic needs of particular students that may be presenting as obstacles to their academic achievements and it provides these students with the support and resources they need to overcome those obstacles (many schools across the nation have similar programs).

Traverse City Area Public Schools serves 10,000 students in 11 elementary schools, two middle schools, three high schools and a variety of preschool classrooms in Michigan. (Photo/https://www.tcaps.ne)
Traverse City Area Public Schools serves 10,000 students in 11 elementary schools, two middle schools, three high schools and a variety of preschool classrooms in Michigan. (Photo/https://www.tcaps.ne)

Eliminating challenges to learning

Adversity in a child’s personal life can affect them in other areas of their life, including school. Research has proven that factors like poverty, trauma, negative influences and other personal hardships can all affect a child’s academic performance.

Schools, particularly teachers, bear the brunt of having to help students deal with their non-academic issues alone, and often use their own personal time and resources to do so.

According to a 2015 national survey by Communities In Schools (CIS) and Public Opinion Strategies, 88% of US teachers found that poverty was a barrier to learning for their students. In addition to that, teachers said they spend 20% of their time – one day a week, 4 days a month – helping students address problems that they face at home or outside of the classroom. Over the course of a child’s 12-year primary and secondary education, that 20% of a teacher’s time averaged out to be roughly 2.5 to 3 years being spent addressing non-academic issues of students.

Furthermore, the CIS and Public Opinion Strategies found that 91% of teachers spent their own money providing supplies for their students and about half have used their own money to feed students, their own time to help a student and their family through a crisis and have helped a student get new clothing or footwear.

The ISSN is a part of the TCAPS larger strategic plan for the school district to improve the quality of life and academic performance of its students. TCAPS has what is called The Giving Closet. It is here that donations of school supplies, food, clothing and other items are collected.

The Art and Mary Schmuckal Family Foundation grant money will go a long way to helping TCAPS staff in their efforts to support and nurture students in need.

In an interview with Michigan This Morning, Sara Sovis, a TCAPS social worker, said that the ISSN program allows students to come into school ready to learn and feel more positive in their learning environment. Additionally, it helps relieve families of stress they may have surrounding these non-academic needs.

Speaking to the success of the program, ISSN Partner in Education & International Programs Coordinator Karyn Hertel said, “I think the results that we’re seeing in the classrooms both behaviorally and academically is quite overwhelming.”

As the needs of TCAPS students are discovered by staff, they get documented in a form they use to ask for assistance from the community. Below is a list of the supplies they are currently looking to collect:

  • Financial donations to support unpaid lunch accounts, extended day childcare, clothing needs, eyeglasses, etc. 
  • Gift cards - Meijer, Target, Walmart, Sam's Club, etc. 
  • $5 Gas cards
  • $5 Gift cards to fast food restaurants
  • Snacks (please be sure to avoid anything with peanuts)
    • Goldfish crackers
    • Ppretzels
    • Applesauce
    • Fruit cups (not in syrup)
    • Graham crackers
    • Whole grain crackers
    • Dried fruits, raisins
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Sugar-free pudding
    • 100 calorie snack bags
    • Water bottles
    • Sugar-free/low sugar juice boxes

The ISSN requests any physical donations of the items above be bought new. They can be dropped off with ISSN Coordinator Karyn Hertel, at the TCAPS Tompkins Boardman Administration Center at 412 Webster St., Traverse City, MI. Those making cash donations can be make them here and are instructed to enter "ISSN" under the program designation section of the form when filling it out. 

Applying for an Art and Mary Schmuckal Family Foundation grant

The Art and Mary Schmuckal Family Foundation has an open grant application policy, meaning it accepts applications through the year. Grant requests are review by its board of directors twice a year – in the summer and winter.

Applications for its summer cycle are due May 15, 2020. Recipients will be notified and receive funding by June 30, 2020. Applications for the winter cycle are due Nov. 15, 2020 and recipients will be notified and receive funding by Jan. 30, 2021. Apply for funding here.

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