AMESBURY — The Amesbury Educational Foundation, Inc. awarded $35,000 in grants to public school programs during Monday night’s Autumn Evening of Giving, which featured the presentation of the annual $10,000 Jordan M. Shay Memorial Grant along with two surprise awards totaling $15,000.
In addition, the foundation also named police Detective Bob Wile this year’s Peter Gray Friend of Education, an honor given to recognize those who have made extraordinary contributions to the education of Amesbury’s children.
“I got the email the other day and I was floored,” Wile said. “It’s a great honor, it really is, I never really realized when I go to work every day, I just do what I need to do and do what’s asked of me, so I wouldn’t ever have thought something like this would have ever materialized in any shape or form.”
This year’s winner of the $10,000 Jordan M. Shay grant was the “When will we ever use this?” program, which will be a partnership between Amesbury High School and Lowell’s Boat Shop that will encompass American studies, local history, math classes, language arts and science.
Through the program with the historic Amesbury boat shop, students will learn about river currents within the Merrimack River, water depth, boat capacity and tidal variations, among other things, AEFI president Laurie Knapp said.
The memorial grant is named in honor of Jordan Shay, an Amesbury resident who died in 2009 at the age of 22 while fighting in Iraq. The grant was established to support worthy school programs. In addition to the money, the winning school each year receives the Jordan Shay Memorial Trophy.
Holly Shay, Jordan’s mother, presented Amesbury High math teacher Jessica Regis and Graham McKay of Lowell’s Boat Shop with the trophy, along with a check from The Provident Bank.
“We’re very excited for this grant,” Regis said. “We’re going to get the kids on the river doing real-life math in the boats.”
AEFI also received a donation from board member Woody Cammett to fund two additional $5,000 grants. Those grants were awarded to the New Hampshire Theatre Project and Shakespeare Workshop and the Amesbury Fit and Fun program, both of which will be run at Amesbury Middle School.
The New Hampshire Theatre Project grant will fund eight days of workshops run by the group’s actors and clinicians, while the Fit and Fun grant will fund a series of programs designed to help students lose weight.
Following the awarding of the three grants, Knapp said AEFI had received more applications than ever before, and that choosing among them was incredibly difficult. As a result, the foundation decided to reach into its endowment to fund two additional grant proposals — one for $10,000 and the other for $5,000.
The second $10,000 grant was awarded to “Project Esteem,” which will promote science, technology, engineering and math in the classroom.
The third $5,000 award went to “Lights, Camera, What did you say?” and will go toward replacing the inadequate sound system in the Cashman School cafeteria.
More than 100 people, including Mayor Thatcher Kezer, several city councilors and numerous school officials, turned out for the evening celebrating AEFI’s fundraising efforts. During the presentations, Knapp announced that the foundation had given back more than $60,000 to the schools over the course of the year, which included the grants awarded Monday night.