Creating a ‘level playing field’ for students in coastal Louisiana

Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence grants help teachers enhance the educational experience

As the time-tested adage tells us, it takes a village to raise a child.

The same goes for educating that child.

While teachers aim to provide the best educational experience they can for their students, it’s hardly their burden alone to instill curiosity, creativity and responsibility, notes Katie Portier. That’s where organizations like the Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence (TFAE) provide vital support for the people tasked with preparing our future leaders.

“Kids don’t start off on the same playing field. Teachers are faced with a wide variety of learning abilities and family backgrounds in their classrooms,” says Portier, executive director with the Houma, Louisiana-based TFAE. “Even within our own parish (Terrebonne Parish), we have schools lacking in technology or supplies. It just ranges so much.

“So the greatest gift we can provide, in my view, is closing some of those gaps so that more students are receiving the same type of education—and creating, hopefully, a level playing field.”

Since 1991, TFAE has done that by awarding more than $1 million in grants to Terrebonne Parish public school teachers. The non-profit organization uses an endowed fund, meaning the principal is safe and the interest serves as a perpetual funding source.

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And the money bolstering this enhanced educational experience comes from the community grassroots—including hundreds of local businesses, corporations and individuals—creating a true partnership. Examples of TFAE grants in action include:

  • A junior-high Girls Who Code club that fosters female careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields;
  • A Scholarly Stations program where elementary school students can take part in play-based learning using technology and games;
  • A trip to the Shakespeare Festival at Tulane University, where high school English students had a live experience of the Bard’s works; and
  • Robotics building, research and programming to solve real-world problems using the engineering process.

“In just under 30 years, we’ve made incredible strides,” says Portier. “These grants can be for supplies, technology, innovative projects and programs—things that can really enhance their students’ experience, and keep them engaged.”

Enbridge is committed to improving quality of life in the communities near our operations. We’ve supported the TFAE for more than a decade, and in recent weeks, we donated $2,500 to the organization’s annual 5K Run for Excellence and Food Fest fundraiser.

TFAE’s grants directly affected more than 50,000 students between 2001 and 2018. The 2018-19 school year saw TFAE fund more than $95,000 worth of technology, projects and programs for public schools in Terrebonne Parish.

“We’re proud that we can continue to support our local teachers and students,” says Portier. “It’s our goal to help reach kids who weren’t previously being reached—to really make an impact.”

(TOP PHOTO: TFAE grants have supported local Girls Who Code clubs in Terrebonne Parish, as well as hundreds of other initiatives.)