Gulfport Excellence Association Boosts Education

A Gulfport community group is finding creative ways to support education by turning private donations into grant money for schools.

The Gulfport Excellence Association is funded by a variety of businesses and individuals. The group uses the interest earned on its permanent endowment fund to pay for a variety of school projects and programs.

First graders at 28th Street Elementary practice their spelling. Such lessons are an important part of early education.  But so are field trips.  And that's what a $750 check from Gulfport Excellence will help fund.

Principal Evelyn Buckley says the kids will benefit from the field trips.

"'Explore their World', that's the name of the grant. And to build their experiences. A lot of the children don't have that opportunity other than through the school and the classrooms."

Now the first graders can look forward to something besides their spelling drills.

"They're already planning their trip to the pumpkin patch. And out to see Santa at the mall at Christmas time. And they're going to do a downtown tour so they see the police station and the fire station and meet the mayor," teacher Alisa Bethea said.

Students at Central Middle School inventory merchandise at the school store. A program called "Keys to Success" also received a grant. Special needs youngsters learn life skills in the store.

"They enjoy it to the fullest. This is something they look forward to, coming to do this, because they're learning. They're learning to do something that's going to help them in life," instructor Venita Goins said.

The Gulfport Excellence Association will hand out more than seven thousand dollars in education grants this year. And those receiving the money say it is especially appreciated in these times of tight school budgets.

John Harral Got to hand out the checks on behalf of the Excellence Association.

"The times are tight now, and so the little bit of money that we can give to these programs I think is money very well spent. Frankly, it's an investment in our future."