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Posted: 01/30/13

AUTISM SUPPORT. Above, Rachel Schick and Laura Forget, Romeo Community Schools elementary teachers, earned a $5,000 grant from the Friends of Jacob Foundation to support their autism and cognitive impairment support program. From left, Friends of Jacob Founder Keith Malec, Schick, Forget and Don Swiatkowski, Friends of Jacob president.

(Photo courtesy of Nancy Campbell)

Video by two teachers
catches eye of foundation

Observer Staff Writer
      $5,000 grant will assist their program to help those with cognitive impairmentsWhen Rachel Schick and Laura Forget, Romeo Community Schools elementary teachers, had to create a video to apply for a grant, they felt a little overwhelmed.
       "Rachel and I are not very tech savvy nor did we have the resources to create an amazing video," Forget said.
       The Friends of Jacob Foundation, however, found the two to be a great team, and decided they were worthy of a contribution to enhance their program for special education students.
       On Jan. 14, the foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to the teachers for their Intensive Resource Room, which assists elementary students in the district affected by autism and cognitive impairments.
       Located in Washington Township, Friends of Jacob provides financial assistance to families with children ages 18 and under who are affected by autism. It was formed in 2008 by Keith Malec, the parent of an autistic child he and his wife, Jodi, adopted at birth.
       The foundation assists families with bills associated with caring for autistic children as well as providing resources to school districts and communities with autism programs.
       Schick and Forget are in their first full year of the intensive resource room program. Schick works at Amanda Moore Elementary with K-2 students while Forget works out of Hevel Elementary with grades 3-5 students.
       Any students in the district who qualify for the intensive room program take a bus to the appropriate building for their grade level, where they receive additional support like sensory supplies.
       "The main thing is this is a new program for Romeo, we're starting from scratch, so we don't have that many materials or supplies," Schick said.
       With this in mind, the duo applied for the foundation's grant. To qualify, contestants had until Dec. 14 to post a video on the foundation's Facebook page explaining why a grant would benefit them.
       "After a lot of thought we decided that it was more important that we tried our best to create a video no matter what it looked like," Forget said.
       The duo then waited for the announcement from the foundation, but heard nothing. When they were recently called into a meeting to discuss their program with their bosses, they were shocked to find Malec and Don Swiatkowski, the foundation's president, presenting a check for them.
       "We were so surprised, we were jumping up and down," Schick said. "They are truly amazing men, they seemed like they were so happy to be able to help us out."
       Malec said the service provided by the teachers given their lack of resources helped the board decide to award the grant to them.
       "They were doing a great job based on what they had, but we felt what we could provide would help a great deal and benefit a lot of students," he said. "It felt very good to do that for them."
       The teachers said they still need to discuss the specifics of what the grant will provide, but will focus on building up technological resources or supplies.
       According to the foundation's Facebook page, it hopes to bring back the contest next year to provide more opportunities for funding school programs.
       The foundation awarded more than $21,000 in grants to 12 Michigan families, and has given about $60,000 since its inception. The foundation is not accepting grant applications at this time.

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