TOPEKA (KSNT) – Nearly a dozen USD 501 staff members received a share of what totaled roughly $25,000 in grant funding from the Topeka Public School (TPS) Foundation.

The foundation surprised those teachers with balloons and a check Tuesday morning. Representatives spent the morning traveling to Ross Elementary, Topeka High School and TCALC for grant presentations. The grants are part of TPS’ annual “Grant Patrol” program.

“We understand that public education is underfunded and our community engagement and ability to go out and raise dollars to give back to these schools means that we’re able to give back to future leaders,” Pamela Johnson Betts, executive director of the TPS Foundation said.

One of the teachers who received a grant totaled $482 is Lauren Westhoff, the animal science instructor at TCALC. She hopes to open a dog grooming facility next to her classroom, and with the help of this funding, will be able to purchase training supplies.

She said students can use those supplies for practice before handling real animals. The idea is they’ll eventually be able to take on the grooming facility as their own business.

“Really the belief in public education means the absolute world to myself and our students,” Westhoff said. “You know, there’s just a lot of things we would not be able to do without the support from the community and the foundation.” 

Westhoff told 27 News she applied for the grant back in September, but she wasn’t expected her vision to become a reality. She said receiving the grant was a pleasant surprise.

Betts said the foundation works all year to come up with money to distribute to district teachers through fundraising. She said TPS has given out over $1.1 million through this program over the years.