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PSJA ISD schools receive Voya Unsung Heroes grants

PHARR –  Two Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD schools received $2,000 grants from the Voya Unsung Heroes Awards Program sponsored by Voya Financial Inc. The grants will be used to fund innovative class projects by Angelica Guzman at Doedyns Elementary in San Juan and Anacita Sugalan at Kennedy Middle School in Pharr.

 Two teachers won grants

For almost 20 years, the Unsung Heroes Awards Program has awarded more than $4 million in grants to educators to help fund innovative class projects. Every year, 100 educators are selected to receive the grants.


Due to PSJA ISD’s commitment to emphasize the importance of promoting literacy and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers among students, the class projects funded will relate to STEM and promoting reading.


The Doedyns Elementary team, which consists of Guzman the school’s Science Lab Teacher, Principal Lucila Gutierrez and PSJA Landscaping & Wildlife Specialist Allen Williams, will use the funds to create a “Native Butterfly Garden” that will showcase the usage of native, drought-resistant flora and fauna to teach students science lessons around natural habitats.


According to the Science Lab Teacher, the garden will be an effective and creative tool for students to understand lessons involving area and perimeter, weather measurements and many other prompts.


“This grant facilitates the continuation of greater things to come,” said Guzman. “We plan to use this grant to continue in our effort to create a drought tolerant, native plant butterfly garden. The garden will be used in a variety of lessons, thus creating an outdoor classroom.”


Additionally, Sugalan’s innovative teaching idea “Big Sister, Big Brother Mentor” will build a mentoring program to promote literacy at PSJA’s Kennedy Middle School. Through the program, 6th grade students will be mentoring elementary school 5th graders by reading books that are of interest to them.


Sugalan believes the program will benefit students by not only improving their reading levels and comprehension, but by encouraging them to excel in all areas.  


“PSJA in general is trying to explore ways to address the specific needs of our English Language Learners and how we can scaffold their language and literacy development through reading books. The grant money will be used to purchase these books,” Sugalan said. “Our school sincerely appreciates the support of the Voya Unsung Heroes and are excited to get this project started.”


With their accomplishments in mind, PSJA ISD is excited to see these innovative ideas come to fruition thanks to the grants. The school district looks forward to continue bringing more similar opportunities to students at every campus.