The Rapidian

Six months of Awesome

The Awesome Foundation continues to reach out to Grand Rapids, seeking to add value to the community.
Underwriting support from:

Awesome Foundation

For more information on the Awesome Foundation and to apply for a grant, visit their website.

Get an awesome idea. Apply for a grant. Win $1000 with no strings attached. Sound too good to be true?

When the Awesome Foundation started awarding grants in Grand Rapids six months ago, they expected to have a constant flow of submissions, but ideas trickled in slowly.

“The first question people ask is, ‘Is this real?’” said John Scott, one of the foundation’s trustees.

Unlike other grant-making organizations, the Awesome Foundation has very few rules.  The money comes from a group of ten people, called “trustees,” who each contribute $100 a month. Grant applicants fill out a very short online form explaining their “awesome” idea, and the trustees vote on a winner who receives a $1000 grant. The criteria are purposefully vague, fashioned after the first Awesome Foundation chapter in Boston. However, after receiving only a handful of submissions over the winter months, the group in Grand Rapids realized that they needed to reach out to the community and make sure people knew that they weren’t too good to be true.

“We’ve been more proactive at getting not only who we are but what we do out to the masses,” Scott said.

He recently took the initiative to create a website for the Grand Rapids chapter. The site includes a countdown to the next deadline, a review of past winners, and some suggestions about what makes an idea “awesome.”

According to the site, “newness” and “niceness” are both factored into the decision making process. “Hilarity” can win favor as well.

The foundation receives a lot of applications from people who are looking for publishing funds or support while unemployed, Scott said. He laments that they can’t help everyone, but the Awesome Foundation is not looking to support personal endeavors.

“We’re all about trying to create something and add value back to the community,” Scott said. With that in mind, they Awesome Foundation takes good ideas that don’t win and puts them back in the running for the next month.

That’s how Mike Jacobs, a science teacher at Calvin Christian High School, won a grant.

“He was one of the originals,” Scott said. The group liked Jacobs’ idea to purchase a tablet computer so that he could teach using technology without being tethered to his desk, or even his classroom.

“That was the most magical part. Here’s this person that truly loves what he does… but wanted to make it more impactful for his students,” Scott said.

However, Jacobs only needed about $350 for his project. The Awesome Foundation decided to grant him twice that, for two tablets, and used the remaining funds to build their website.

A lot of grants target large projects, but Jacobs wasn’t ready to try to fund a computer for every student, he said.

“I’m really excited to explore it and see if this will work,” Jacobs said of integrating the tablets into his teaching. Starting small allows him to test if this will be the best direction for the future. He hopes to help other teachers learn how to use new technology in their classrooms as well.

“I can’t say enough how great the Awesome Foundation is for giving me this opportunity,” Jacobs said.

The sixth Awesome Foundation grant also went to a teacher. Kris DeYoung, the service learning coordinator for the Catholic Secondary Schools in Grand Rapids, will use her grant to help fund supplies for an event her students put on in collaboration with Artists Creating Together (ACT). ACT provides art experiences for people with disabilities.

 

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