Some ‘Extra Credit’ for these teachers and students

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published June 24, 2015


WARREN — Five local students were honored June 17 for their academic achievements during Extra Credit Union’s Excellence Awards luncheon held at ECU’s main office on Chicago Road.

In addition, nearly a dozen educators were recognized as recipients of the credit union’s TEAM classroom grants for the 2014-15 school year.

Students Joseph Maleszyk, Lauren Desantis, Luke Brady, Lori McPhee and Nathan Holland each received the Richard J. Spence Scholarship. Students went through an application process, and a judging committee chose the outstanding students based on their essays, academics, school involvement and significant contributions to family or society. ECU allocated $5,000 for the program.

Maleszyk, who attends Cousino High School in Warren, received a $2,000 scholarship. Desantis, of Stevenson High School in Sterling Heights, earned $1,000. Warren Mott High School student Brady also received $1,000. McPhee, of Center Line High School, and Holland, who attends Lakeview High School in St. Clair Shores, each received a $500 scholarship.

Maleszyk will major in accounting at Central Michigan University. Desantis plans to study biochemistry at the University of Michigan. Brady will attend Saginaw Valley State University to pursue accounting. The University of Colorado is calling McPhee’s name, and she will be an environmental science major, while Holland will study criminal justice at Oakland University.

Also recognized at the luncheon were Westview Elementary School fifth-grade students Tristan Brunelle and Logan Tye, who were among the 13 students selected to work for the school’s Student Teller Program. According to ECU Marketing Manager Amy Persyn, the students underwent both an application and job training process. Jobs included teller, security guard and branch manager.

“I worked once a month,” Brunelle said. “It was cool.”

“He really liked it a lot,” his grandmother, Renee Hannaford, said. “He talked about it all the time.”

ECU also set aside $10,000 to award grants to local educators. The grants were given during the 2014-15 school year. The following 11 teachers who received grants for academic purposes were recognized:

Emily Thomas-Cutlip, of Sterling Heights High School, received $1,300 for her students to attend two plays outside of school, as well as covering the busing expense.

Areej Hakim, of SHHS, received $1,874 for his students to visit the Henry Ford Museum, as well as covering the cost of busing transportation.

Leisl O’Grady, of Angus Elementary, received $1,200 to help enhance the school’s PBIS Soar Behavior Program by rewarding students who are respectful, responsible and safe.

Lori Weeks, of Siersma Elementary, received $750 to purchase shelving units for her art classroom.

Elvisa Ejubovic, of Holden Elementary, received $654.96 to purchase six tablets with cases for students to use in small math group rotations.

Rebecca Mulligan, of Fitzgerald High School, received $1,090 for busing costs and tickets for drama students to see the musical “Fences,” and the purchase of moveable sets for theater.

Jeff Kmiec, of FHS, received $668.23 for materials to kick off an engineering class project called LEGO Next Gen S.T.E.M.

Lenise Binkowski, of Westview Elementary Early Childhood Center, received $960 to pay for 96 low-income preschool students to attend a field trip to the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak.

Michelle Keeran, of CLHS, received $662.88  to purchase six 72-piece sets of Prismacolor colored pencils for art class.

Melanie Brown, of Algonquin Middle School, received $531.12 to purchase wobble concentration chairs for her special needs classroom.

Marah Brandimarte, of Wolfe Middle School,  received $300 for blenders for making paper.

Some, but not all, of the teachers were present at last week’s event.

Brandimarte, a science teacher, was able to purchase six blenders that students used to recycle paper and cardboard to make cards for different purposes. Food coloring and glitter also could be added to the blenders.

For the project, the students placed the recycled paper inside the blenders, filled them with warm water and turned them on. The mixture made a pulp, which was then poured onto a screen frame and set to dry overnight. The reused paper made cards to be used for crafting, writing notes or scrapbooking. The students also learned the value of recycling.

“This hands-on activity was so powerful for the students,” Brandimarte said. “Without this grant, we would have never been able to afford these blenders.”

Brown, a teacher consultant in Chippewa Valley Schools, was able to acquire several wobble chairs for students with ADHD and autism to use. The chairs have a round seat, but there is no back on them.

“They’re like a pedestal. They wobble and the lower body is in motion so their upper body can focus better,” Brown said. “They work amazingly well. (The students’) ability to complete work increased tremendously.”

ECU has a number of educational programs, including Banzai, which gives teachers an online financial literacy course to teach students. Credit Union staff also bring in students for tours, have a hands-on program called Mad City Money, and have Pay It Forward, a contest that gives students the opportunity to share their ideas of how they would change the world with $100.

At another luncheon, Warren Mott High School students were awarded more than $27,000 in scholarships from the school-based mentoring program Winning Futures. 

Santana Robinson, Dallas Wheelock, Colleen Wilson, Nicole Anne, Dominique Yu and Alina Zhuravel were awarded scholarships based on written essays and interviews that were conducted by business and community leaders at the June 8 Winning Futures Awards celebration.

Winning Futures offers school-based mentoring programs and workshops for middle and high school students in southeast Michigan. The programs focus on the life skills of character value identification, goal setting, career preparation and strategic planning.

The Winning Futures Awards celebration was sponsored by Lusk & Albertson, Extra Credit Union, FCA Foundation and Lear Corp.