Hoover City Schools

HCS School Wins Coveted $20,000 National Grant back button

Erik Wahl | The Wahl Foundation
Erik Wahl | The Wahl Foundation

5-April-2016 (ROCKY RIDGE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, HOOVER) - The Wahl Foundation, in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), has awarded one $20,000 grant and ten $2,000 grants to eleven U.S. schools as part of the UNthink My School grant program.  Rocky Ridge Elementary School, a Hoover City School, is the nation’s recipient for the top grant of $20,000.

The $20,000 will help implement a curriculum called Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) program for grades K-12. The PLTW program for students in grades K-5 – PLTW Launch – introduces students to computer science, engineering and biomedical science concepts, while helping them develop problem solving, critical and creative thinking, collaboration and communication skills.

“To be selected as THE grand prize winner of $20,000 from hundreds of applications across this great country is such an honor for the students, staff and parents at Rocky Ridge Elementary.  Winning this national grant will help us to build on our school focus: ‘Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead.’  With this new partnership, we will unleash creative problem solving and innovation and hope to bring much deserved recognition to Hoover City Schools and the state of Alabama,” Dr. Dilhani Uswatte, Rocky Ridge Elementary School Principal, said.  

Rocky Ridge Elementary is a Title 1 Targeted Assistance School.  The grant addresses 21st-century challenges that Hoover—and nearly every other community—will face.  The $20,000 will help fund technology and curricular initiatives beginning in the 2016-2017 school year.  School leaders will begin promoting the newly-awarded grant on various platforms using the hashtag #UnthinkMySchool.

Assistant Principal Dr. Kara Chism helped write the grant, noting in the application that the grant would help provide students ways to expand creativity and show them new paths for their futures, simultaneously broadening their imaginations through innovative engagement.

“Our job as educators is to prepare students for future employment. The majority of jobs our current students will have do not even exist today. We must prepare our students to be problem solvers that can devise creative solutions and new ideas,” Chism said.

Both Drs. Uswatte and Chism have begun work on budgeting the $20,000 to best allocate resources throughout the school, noting that a new influx of S.T.E.A.M. resources will awaken children’s natural curiosities, lift obstacles and give students opportunities to tap into the art of critical thinking.  

“The Wahl Foundation is honored to partner with Rocky Ridge Elementary School as they engage their students in lifelong learning. Reading the hundreds of grant applications we received, we were filled with gratitude and hope for the future of education,” Wahl Foundation Executive Director, Tasha Wahl, said.

“Principals are proudly committed to providing a well-rounded and complete education that enables each and every child to reach his or her fullest potential in every way—socially, emotionally, physically and academically,” said NAESP Executive Director Gail Connelly. “We are proud that NAESP’s partnership with the Wahl Foundation has helped spark and fund innovative ideas that will not only help schools, but the communities they serve,” she added.

The Wahl Foundation, in collaboration with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), launched “UNthink My School” as a way to reward elementary schools that approached a challenge with a creative solution. The grant was created as a way to reinforce themes in Erik Wahl’s book, UNThink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius.

In addition to Rocky Ridge Elementary School, other schools receiving a $2,000 grant are:

  • Al Iman School, Raleigh, NC, for a trauma program.

  • East Point Elementary, El Paso, TX, for a “Golden Rule” civility and morale program.

  • Hidden Oaks Elementary School, Lake Worth, FL, for a hands-on lab.

  • Hillman Elementary School, Hillman, MI, to enhance a TV production studio.

  • Lincoln Elementary School, Huntington, IN, for an after-school arts program.

  • McMillan Elementary, Mexico, MO, for a summer book program.

  • Milan Middle School, Milan, MI, for a sensory garden.

  • Pocomoke Elementary School, Pocomoke City, MD, for a global learning lab.

  • St. Monica Catholic School, Dallas, TX, for STEM learning programs.

  • White Deer Elementary, New Columbia, PA, to enhance the resource room.

“The time and attention the principals, teachers and students alike put into the application process was inspiring. It was extremely difficult to choose from among so many innovative ideas. We based our final decisions on the applicant’s creative concept for how to ‘UNthink’ their school environment and how they integrated their school community and also their neighborhood demographics in the projects,” Wahl said.

To learn more about the Wahl Foundation and its work to foster innovation and help the underserved, visit www.thewahlfoundation.com.


Erik and Tasha Wahl created the Wahl Foundation because they are passionate about integrating the arts in education. They believe that incorporating artistic concepts and creative expression into the learning process can be transformative for classroom and school environments. The Wahl Foundation is dedicated to enabling positive change. We gravitate toward other projects that serve education, the underserved, the arts and other innovative projects that fall beyond those areas.


Established in 1921, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) leads in the advocacy and support for elementary and middle school principals in the United States and internationally. NAESP supports principals as the primary catalysts for creating lasting foundations for learning through policy development, advocacy, professional development programs, and resources for effective instructional leadership. NAESP advances the profession on behalf of all principals, providing specialized support and mentoring for early career principals. Key focus areas include pre-K-3 education, school safety, technology and digital learning, and capacity-building educator evaluation. To learn more about NAESP, please visit www.naesp.org.  


Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a nonprofit organization that provides a transformative learning experience for K-12 students and teachers across the U.S. Through pathways in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science, PLTW empowers students to develop in-demand knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in an evolving world, and provides teachers with the support and resources they need to devote more time to inspiring students. PLTW programs can be found in over 8,000 elementary, middle, and high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. For more information on Project Lead The Way, visit https://www.pltw.org/.   

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