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Extra Credit Union awards $10,000 in grants to local schools

This fall, Barnes Early Childhood Center in Grosse Pointe Public Schools will have a new, unique attendee on its roster—a therapy dog. The dog will be able to enhance students’ well-being by reducing their stress, increasing students’ positive emotions, promoting engagement and positive attitudes toward learning, and so much more.

The benefits of a therapy dog are many. And the students at the childhood center will be able to reap these benefits in large part to a $1,318 School Employee Grant from Extra Credit Union. School employees Marlana Jones and Brandy Rokicki will be receiving one of 10 grants from the credit union this year totaling $10,008.

“We are incredibly grateful for this grant to aid in funding a therapy dog for Barnes Early Childhood Center,” Jones said. “The therapy dog will not only enhance the well-being and learning outcomes of children attending Barnes, but also spread joy among staff and throughout the whole building. We cannot thank Extra Credit Union enough for helping us with this joyful endeavor.”

The funds for the therapy dog program will be used for dog and staff training, materials and needed supplies, and more.

Other School Employee Grant funds help to support initiatives such as comfortable and engaging reading spaces for third graders and equipment for packing weekend meals for local students.

Lyle Dixon is receiving $2,000 for an expansion of a video game club that helps to reach a unique audience of students, including at-risk students, who are not engaged by other after-school programs. He began the Video Game Club at Chatterton in late 2021.

“We have routinely seen students eager to participate with our group during lunches as an earnable activity, after school, and with a highly popular elective class that was piloted last year,” he said. “Participation in our club has always promoted effective communication skills, good sportsmanship, and effective teamwork as the pillars of our underlying curriculum and goals.”

Mindy Harchuk will be receiving $800 to purchase flexible seating for her fifth-grade classroom at Endeavor Elementary School, which is in a title one district. She said her students come to school to seek a happy and safe place to learn and grow, but that traditional desks limit movement and engagement, which hinder optimal learning experiences.

“I envision a transformed learning space where students are empowered to thrive, enhancing their educational journey and preparing them for a future where adaptability and innovation are key,” she said. “With the option of flexible seating, students are able to sit more comfortably in their learning environment and become more engaged in their learning.”

Extra Credit Union’s School Employee Grant has been helping support “extra” needs for local schools and classrooms for 13 years—with funds totaling $130,000.

“We know that school budgets don’t often have much wiggle room for the ‘extras’ teachers and schools would like to enhance their lessons and learning environments,” said Ruthann Varosi, Vice President of Marketing at Extra Credit Union. “We are happy to be able to support these initiatives year after year and help to fill in the gaps. Many of these recipients go the ‘extra’ mile with out-of-the-box ways to reach all different types of learners, and we want to help them get there whether we are providing simple supplies or funding for a field trip.”

Extra Credit Union awards $10,000 in grants annually. We are proud to announce this year’s School Employee Grant recipients:

  • Marlana Jones and Brandy Rokicki—Barnes Early Childhood Center in Grosse Pointe Public Schools—$1,318 to start a Therapy Dog Program
  • Stacie Smith-Duenow—Carleton Middle School—$1,500 to purchase materials needed for 3D Art and Ceramics for middle school art  
  • Kathryn VanGorder and Bessie Tasios—Fitzgerald High School—$440 to bring Chinese to the community field trip activity
  • Kimberly Winiarski—Tau Beta School in Hamtramck—$1,000 to help fund their Snowboard Outreach Program
  • Erika Gadoury—Willow Woods Elementary School—$750 to help fund school assemblies at the school that help build student character
  • Mindy Harchuk—Endeavor Elementary School—$800 to purchase flexible seating for 5th graders
  • Ann Clark, Marge Racine and Gina Asaro—Warren Consolidate Schools Blessings In A Backpack program—$500 to purchase two carts to help transport food on packing days
  • Annette Lauria—St. Anne Catholic Grade School-Junior High—$500 to get signs and materials as well as student rewards to kick off their Positive Behavior Interventions & Support Program (PBIS)
  • Lyle Dixon—Chatterton Middle School—$2,000 to help fund items needed for CMS Video Game Club Explosion
  • Carolyn Short and Madilyn Wasikowski—Memphis Elementary School—$1,200 to fund items needed to create Engaging Workspaces for 3rd graders

Extra Credit Union chose two random winners to surprise with the announcement on Facebook live. Visit our Facebook page to check out the videos.

Grant recipients will be honored in June at Extra Credit Union’s annual Excellence Awards, an event at which the credit union also honors its annual scholarship recipients. Scholarship winners will be announced in the spring. Visit Extra Credit Union’s website for more information on the credit union’s involvement in schools.

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