The Carnival Classic is a city-wide celebration of public education and kick-off to the new school year held annually at Memorial Park in September. Student organizations, PTOs, sporting and academic groups, and other school-related groups participate with booths and games from which they retain 100% of their proceeds. Other youth-related, nonprofit organizations in the Helena area participate with performances or informational booths.
The Great Ideas Grant Program is a cornerstone of the Helena Education Foundation’s mission to enrich education in the Helena Public Schools. It is designed to put money directly into the hands of classroom teachers, helping educators take ideas for innovative teaching strategies and make them a reality. Grants are awarded twice each school year to successful applicants who are teachers employed by the Helena School District for up to $1,250 for individuals and up to $5,000 for group or team applications.
Launched in 2020/2021, Spark Grants offer additional funding for enrichment opportunities for students. Educators may apply for up to $500 per project. Grants are offered in four cycles per school year, and provide more flexibility accessibility for smaller learning projects.
The Celebration of Excellence is the Foundation’s annual tribute to those graduating students who have excelled in academics or other areas of achievement, demonstrated leadership or overcame obstacles during their years in high school. Distinguished Scholars are identified based upon their grade point averages and the numbers of total and honors credits they have completed. Distinguished Achievers are nominated by educators and selected by a committee of community members. Each student then honors the educator who had the most meaningful impact on his/her education.
Fabulous Firsts is the Foundation’s way of welcoming first graders to their march to 12th grade and graduation. Each student receives a hard cover, often award-winning book as a gift. The books are presented at reading celebrations for families at each of the elementary schools in the district. The titles change annually and are selected by a committee which seeks the best among new fiction for children.
Great Conversations is a celebration of life-long learning and the civilized art of conversation. Guests choose from among approximately 35-40 topics, which change each year and enjoy an evening of fine dining and conversation with 6-7 other guests who share an interest in the topic, as well as a table facilitator with expertise in the subject. More than 300 people attend each year and often find the “great conversations’ can continue far beyond the evening they share. Great Conversations is typically held on the Wednesday prior to the week of Thanksgiving.
The Helena Education Foundation’s “Let’s Talk about Great Teachers” Awards began in 2007 as part of Great Conversations to honor educators in Helena’s Public Schools who are extraordinary and who exceed expectations in serving students, their peers and their community.
Trading Places is designed to allow business and community leaders the chance to learn more about the role of building administrators in our schools and to experience first-hand the decisions and responsibilities principals face each day. Principals will learn about the business sector and see how schools can play a role in supporting local businesses and community organizations. The Foundation facilitates ongoing collaboration following Trading Places. Trading Places is one of many programs that put schools in the community and the community into the classroom.
The Harrison Writing Awards include up to four, cash awards given annually by the Helena Education Foundation in honor of sponsor Lee Harrison in the categories of either expository or creative writing to high school writers. Harrison Writing Awards are selected by writers in our community. The prose and poetry of Harrison award winners are featured in the annual Pen & Ink magazine. The Foundation organizes a community launch party for the magazine at which students have the opportunity to recite their works. See below for the writings of Harrison Writing Award winners.