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Cranston Teacher an "Unsung Hero"

Dawn Giarrusso of Western Hills Middle School is just one of 100 winners across the country in the ING Unsung Heroes Awards Program.

Dawn Giarrusso of and a team of her fellow educators are going back to school $2,000 richer.

Giarrusso is one of just 100 people named an "Unsung Hero" by ING in the financial institution's annual Unsung Heroes Grant program.

The program honors teachers and educators who have made "a significant impact on their students and the educational experience in the classroom."

In Giarrusso's case, the innovative program is about eliminating school violence and bullying. She and her team's winning program, "Rachel's Challenge," "focuses on random acts of kindness and eliminating school violence and bullying," according to a release.

Rachel Scott was the first person killed during the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. 

Rachel's Challenge "exists to inspire, equip and empower every student to create a permanent, positive culture change in their school and community by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion," the release stated.

The goal of the project is to create a safer environment for all students by delivering proactive antidotes against school violence and bullying. The program improves academic achievement by engaging students and parents in the learning process and students will participate in anti-bullying skits, community service projects and will work on creating a “chain reaction,” a chain made from paper links, highlighting student achievements. This program will also inform parents of ways to identify students who are being bullied and educate them on how to effectively handle these issues. Giarrusso and her team believe all students will benefit from this project.

“ING is proud of the hard work and dedication of all of our nation’s teachers,” said Maliz Beams, CEO of ING U.S. Retirement Services. “It is a privilege to invest in the innovative ideas of educators across the United States who are preparing our children for the future. We hope the additional funds Dawn Giarrusso, John Macera, Leslie LeFebvre, Michael Waterman, Kevin Denneny, Anthony Corrente, Thomas Barbieri, Joseph Rotz, and Michael Crudale are awarded through ING Unsung Heroes will help sustain their program and continue to make an impact on the children in their community.”

The 2012 ING Unsung Heroes winners were selected from a group of more than 1,300 applications. To learn more about this year’s winning projects, as well as those from previous years, visit the ING Unsung Heroes website (unsungheroes.com). More information about the program can also be found on the ING Unsung Heroes Facebook page (facebook.com/unsungheroesgrant) where people can like and share the page to encourage more educators to apply. Applications for the 2013 ING Unsung Heroes awards are available on the website.

Joanne Gregory August 27, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Congrats Dawn! What a great teacher! All the best to you, Joanne Gregory, CCAP
Dawn Giarrusso August 27, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Thank you! That's a great article, but I can not take all of the credit. Several colleagues and I are working to bring this project to fruition. I just happened to be the one who wrote the grant and could only list one "Contact Person". Congratulations to everyone at Western Hills, Bain, and Park View!!!
Jim Corcoran August 28, 2012 at 12:42 AM
A high school in Appleton, Wisconsin tried an experiment under the enlightened guidance of their principal, LuAnn Coenen. She wanted to see if she could positively affect the fighting, weapons-carrying and general lack of focus and discipline in the school by changing the food the kids ate. Vending machines were replaced with water coolers; hamburgers and French fries were taken off the menu and replaced with fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grain breads and a salad bar. With the departure of junk food, she also saw the departure of vandalism, litter and the need for police patrolling her hallways. The students were calm, socially engaged and focused on their schoolwork. Problems were minimal. And all Ms. Coenen did was change the menu! Please watch "Forks Over Knives" for FREE to learn about the implications of a meat-based diet vs a plant-based diet. Go to http://www.hulu.com/watch/279734 and do yourself and your family a favor!
Peggie Biello August 29, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Congratulations Dawn & your colleagues for such a wonderful project. You truly are all an inspiration to your schools & community. Keep up the good work. Peggie Biello

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