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Cash for Classrooms

Misty Lown, owner of Misty’s Dance Unlimited, reads “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” while second-grade student Johanna Hall, right, signs the words to her class Wednesday at North Woods International School. Hall helped write the proposal for a $250 grant to provide additional sign language resources for the school.

On Wednesday afternoon, Johanna Hall was able to read along with “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Hall, a hearing-impaired second-grader at North Woods International School in La Crosse, was able to hear Misty’s Dance Unlimited owner Misty Lown read the words to the story thanks to a cochlear implant she received when she was 10 months old. As part of the story time, Hall was able to share many of the American Sign Language words from the book with her classmates, and she also helped her school provide additional sign language materials for students.

Hall helped write a $250 grant request with instructor Sharon Carlson to the Cash for Classrooms program. In its fifth year, the program founded by Lown and Coulee Parenting Connection owner Lissa Carlson has given away more than $25,000 in grants to local classrooms.

Lown said the program was started at a time when teachers were being hit hard with budget cuts — and scorn — so the two decided to show public education has the support of the business community. The program receives about 30 requests each year and has been able to fulfill almost all of them, said Lown, whose dance studio is in Onalaska.

The grants favor requests related to literacy, the arts and sustainable projects or items that can be used year after year. Students also have to be involved in the grant-writing process, explaining what the grant would mean to them and their classmates.

“This is really a child-focused project,” Lown said. “The students have to be involved in it.”

Johanna wrote a letter in support of Carlson’s grant proposal, which will provide new sign language materials including a signing puppet and large presentation materials on American Sign Language. Lown said she was struck by how Johanna focused not on herself but helping all of the students at her school.

Bilingual, Johanna speaks both English and ASL and has been teaching some of her classmates the language. In her proposal, the second-grader wrote about how the new materials would help her and her friends become better signers, helping those students who struggle to hear what their friends and teachers are saying.

“They would help kids who can’t hear anything,” Johanna said.


Nathan Hansen has been the Education Reporter for the Tribune since 2014. Prior to that, he covered education, agriculture and business topics for the Winona Daily News. He is always on the lookout for news tips and can be contacted at 608-791-8234.

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