The Piano Outreach
When single and teenage mothers walk into Giraffe Laugh looking for daycare, they leave with a support network, mothering skills and a vision for their family’s future.
“Our mission is to provide a quality environment for children to grow and develop their full potential while parents are able to seek necessary resources to become self-sufficient,” says Lori Fascilla, executive director of Giraffe Laugh.
Fascilla’s efforts to help struggling women in the Boise area earned her one of six 2013 Smart Women Grants from Zions Bank. Last year’s winners in Utah and Idaho range from history buffs to business entrepreneurs, but they all share a common goal: Empower women and underserved minorities to take control of their lives.
Each of last year’s winners stood out from 120 applicants to win one of the $3,000 grants awarded in November. In the past nine years, Zions Bank has awarded more than $180,000 in Smart Women Grants to women-led businesses or endeavors that not only directly benefit underserved populations but also stand as examples of business acumen to other women.
“We are thrilled to support these talented women who are making a difference in their communities every day,” says Chantel Chase, vice president and manager of the Women’s Financial Group. “Their accomplishments are proof of the positive and significant impact a woman can make when she has a vision.”
Following are the 2013 Smart Women Grant winners in six categories:
Child and Elder Care
In Boise, Giraffe Laugh provides more than $100,000 in scholarships to 100 young mothers who could otherwise not afford a quality daycare program for their children. The Smart Women Grant will provide such scholarships for five babies of teen mothers.
More than 55 percent of the children at the three Giraffe Laugh centers come from low-income families, and 88 percent of these families are women heading their own households. The newest Giraffe Laugh site serves students at Boise’s Marian Pritchett School, which caters to pregnant teenagers or young moms caring for infants while finishing their high school degree.
“We are affecting two generations because their little babies will be much more likely to attend college if their mothers do,” Fascilla says. The centers also provide parent education to young mothers so that the quality care can continue at home. “Strong families equal strong kids, which equal strong communities,” she says.
Grant winner Amber Barron
It’s no secret that math and science skills are in high demand. But high school senior Amber Barron says many students don’t know how to succeed in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.
“There is a gap between knowing our nation’s economy hinges upon involvement in STEM careers and producing individuals with the skills, interest and aptitude to pursue the academic rigors of these professions,” says Barron, 17, a senior at Riverton High School in Utah.
To encourage more students — especially women and underserved minorities — to seek out and be successful in these STEM courses, Barron believes participation in the state engineering science fair holds the key.
“The engineering fair allows students to use creativity and prior knowledge to create solutions to everyday problems,” she says.
With the Smart Women Grant, Barron plans to create and distribute a nationwide curriculum for science teachers outlining exactly how students can engage in the engineering science fair. Barron’s program, called STEM Not Only for Men, will also provide at least 40 mini-grants of $60 each to students participating in the fair within the Jordan School District.
This is Barron’s second time receiving a Smart Women Grant. Her first, received in 2010, was used to fund a local chapter of MESA or Math, Engineering, Science Achievement at South Hills Middle School.
Arts and Culture
Grant winner Susan Duehlmeier
The Piano Outreach program is bringing arts education to inner-city students in Salt Lake City’s highly diverse district. The program provides three hours of weekly, after-school piano instruction to between 30 and 40 students at each of three at-risk elementary schools.
“The artistic objective of the program is to teach a lifelong skill that the children will be able to use for future employment and for their own enjoyment,” says Susan Duehlmeier, the piano area chair at the University of Utah who supervises the Piano Outreach Program.
The program also gives approximately 15 piano performance majors at the U., most of whom are women, an opportunity to develop teaching skills as instructors in the program. Originally started 10 years ago by U. professor Dr. Bonnie Gritton, the Piano Outreach program is now directed by Dr. Cassie Olsen.
Duehlmeier adds that studies have shown that students who regularly take piano classes fare better in core academic subjects, as well as in other areas such as truancy and behavior.
The program partners with the Salt Lake City School District for funding, but recent budget cuts for low-income schools have threatened its existence. The Smart Women Grant will allow the program to maintain its high level of curriculum and oversight.
Grant winner Laurie Hurst
“At the Clark Farm, our children and grandchildren can enjoy the peaceful sound of irrigation sprinklers ticking and crickets chirping or smell fresh cut hay,” says Laurie Hurst, founder and board member of Friends of Clark Historic Farm. “These sights, smells and sound hold great soul value, and we want to preserve them for Grantsville’s posterity.”
The farm is currently owned by Grantsville City but has sat mostly unused for several years due to the lack of city funds for the project. Hurst started Friends of Clark Historic Farm, a woman-led, not-for-profit organization, to make the dream of a historic Clark Farm into a reality that could “inspire children and others by strengthening ties to our heritage, to our families and to our land.”
The Smart Women Grant will allow the group to establish a farmers market at the farm, as well as host corrals for FFA students who don’t have enough land to raise livestock on their own.
“Through activities, we connect kids and families to Grantsville’s rich pioneer heritage and help them recognize that agriculture is the seed that grew our town,” Hurst says.
Health and Human Services
Skills for Success
When women graduate from the Skills for Success program in Hailey, Idaho, they leave not only with a certificate but also with a set of life skills that can help them get back on their feet to support their families.
The 11-week program run by The Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault caters to low-income, abused women. Skills for Success annually gives 40 women a new start in life with work-entry job training, classes on financial management and a focus on specific job skills.
“Participants are also strengthened as they gain skills, resources and support needed to leave abusive relationships behind,” says Tricia Swartling, executive director of the Advocates program.
The Smart Women Grant will be used to give course participants a $200 stipend upon completion, as well as to provide materials and create matched savings accounts for successful students.
Grant winner Alicia Vanderschuere
RosieMADE isn’t just an online store; it is a network to connect successful businesswomen. The site, www.rosiemade.com, kicked off a year ago with a goal to sell products made from high-quality ingredients by women-friendly businesses in the United States.
Originally launched out of Meridian, Idaho, rosieMADE now has a storefront in Boise along with its website. The site also features a Rosie Network for its companies, linking them together and providing articles, information and tools for female business leaders.
The Smart Women Grant will allow rosieMADE to redesign its community pages to create more resources for women, such as articles on topics ranging from how to start or expand a business to how to brand a company. The revamped site will also continue to showcase various women who epitomize what it means to be a “Rosie,” which rosieMADE founder and CEO Alicia Vanderschuere defines as being strong, inspirational and impactful.
“By featuring these women, we can celebrate important voices and insights that need to be heard,” she says. “These women have and will continue to inspire others with their words or actions. Our ‘Real Life Rosies’ are everyday heroes in their businesses, organizations and communities.”
Applications and information about the 2014 grants are available at www.zionsbank.com/smartwomen, or by calling 800-737-6586. Employees and immediate family members of Zions Bank and its affiliates are not eligible. Applications are due July 7, 2014.