It is no secret that there are some pretty amazing things happening here in Hamilton everyday. Did you know that a number of these improvements and activities we can attribute to the children of this city? Thanks to 17 Strong, our city's youth have been given an amazing opportunity to make a difference through the 17 Strong Nanogrant program.
What is a Nanogrant?
According to 17 Strong’s website, Microgrants “award financial support for programs, projects, or events that promote citizen engagement, enhance the beautification of the neighborhood, improve safety within the community, or address neighborhood needs and aspirations.” Microgrant Committee Chair, Kristina Latta-Landefeld, described the Nanogrants as being born from the microgrants. A nanogrant is a small bout of financial support, but more than this it is about the people involved in the process, specifically our city's youth. Nanogrants are awarded to students at one school each year. The Nanogrant Team meets with the principal and teachers of the school to plan and initiate the process which encourages students to learn about 17 Strong and the history of their neighborhood. Students learn a lot about the history of their neighborhood from 17 Strong's resident historian Dick Scheid. Dick was a teacher in the Fairfield City Schools for 37 years. Combine that with his love for Hamilton and Hamilton neighborhoods in particular, he is a perfect match and asset to the Nanogrant team. He spends a lot of time researching each neighborhood prior to meeting with students applying for Nanogrants. He shares so many interesting and neighborhood specific stories that capture the student's attention. This is such an important piece of the Nanogrant process! Students also learn about ways to improve their neighborhood, and about the grant writing process. Each school has four groups that are chosen to be granted an amount of $500.00 to support their project.
How did the Nanogrants Start?
In 2017, a group of 17 Strong board members took a visit to Covington, Kentucky to attend a meeting held by their neighborhoods group. They learned about how they had been getting their cities' youth involved and how instrumental they had been in creating community ideas. This inspired 17 Strong to start the Nanogrant program here in Hamilton. The first school to complete this process was Highland Elementary in 2020. Ty Smallwood, who was the principal there at the time, along with the sixth grade teachers were willing and enthusiastic to get involved with this program. The four projects that were awarded to the sixth graders at Highland Elementary that year were care packages for the homeless, the installation of a crosswalk at Franklin and Millville, a Highland Green Team, and a volleyball court at Jim Grimm Park.
The second school to complete the Nanogrant process was Riverview Elementary in 2022. That year fifth graders were chosen because it was determined they could still be involved into their sixth grade year. The grants that were selected to be funded at Riverview Elementary were We Wish You Well, Helping the Homeless, Blessing Box, and Jefferson Park picnic tables. 17 Strong board member Kathy Klink described the powerful impact it had on her watching the students who wanted the picnic tables at Jefferson Park go through this process. The students had done the research and calculations to determine what it would take to obtain these picnic tables, and with a partnership with Tim Carpenter and his carpentry class at Hamilton High School, they were able to make their vision a reality. In honor of the picnic tables being installed, people met at the park to celebrate the students and the picnic tables. The students left handprints on the bottom of them as a reminder that they were able to make this happen.
Ridgeway Elementary had the incredible opportunity to complete the Nanogrant process this year. The fifth grade teachers were amazed by how engaged students were with learning about the history of their neighborhood and how to improve it. Knowing their idea had the possibility to be chosen for a Nanogrant gave each student the drive and determination they needed to complete the project.
The four grants that were selected from Ridgeway Elementary are to plant three Pink Dogwood trees at Ridgeway, make no-sew blankets for the homeless, an electric box art mural, and a neighborhood cook-out and clean-up utilizing the 17 Strong Cube. The neighborhood cookout and cleanup recently took place on June 26th. Local citizens met at the Twinbrook Plaza Shopping Center to clean up trash around Millville, New London, and Wasserman. After cleaning up, refreshments were provided by the Cheese-N-Chong food truck. When Ridgeway fifth grade teacher Katie Sugg asked her student Wade Seniours how it felt to be involved with this process he responded, “It made me feel like I did something amazing.” This idea was all created and carried out by fifth grade students from Ridgeway Elementary. The three remaining projects will be carried out this fall when students return to school.
Nanogrants to Come
The goal is to eventually get all of the elementary schools involved in the Nanogrant process. This won’t just be Hamilton public, but parochial schools as well. When choosing a school each year, 17 Strong tries to make it equitable and to spread it out around the city. When asked what her favorite part of the nanogrant process has been, Kristina immediately had a story to tell about a student who was a part of the cookout and cleanup from Ridgeway. “I was recently at a microgrant event that took place at Bridgeport Elementary and Rylan, who was a part of the cookout and clean up grant, was there and participated in this event. He was very positive the whole time and talked about how excited he was for his event with the Cube. Seeing that kind of pride in the community, and the connections that were made, is what it’s all about. He felt empowered that he had an idea, it got funded, and he got to meet all of these people and have a greater sense of community.”
With this only being the third school to complete the Nanogrant process and seeing all of the impact these students have already had on our city is so inspiring. All of us Hamiltonians will need to be on the lookout for all of the wonderful ideas to come.
*A huge thank you to 17 Strong for providing this opportunity for the students in Hamilton, and 17 Strong board members Kristina Latta-Landefeld, Sue Head, Peggy Bange, and Kathy Klink.
-- Madelyn Spurlock