ING Unsung Heroes® Top Award Winners

Each year, three Top Winners are selected from the 100 $2,000 finalists to receive additional awards of $25,000, $10,000, and $5,000. To find out more about the previous year's Top Winners and their award-winning projects, click on the links below.


  • Glen Burnie High School
    Glen Burnie, Maryland

    “Art at the Speed of Light” combines the fundamentals of intermediate drawing and painting curriculum with the Bio Medical Allied Health Magnet students’ honors physics curriculum, creating an interdisciplinary pilot course. The program allows students innovative opportunities to explore and study physics phenomena through a visual arts lens. To date, the drawing and painting projects borrow from various photographic styles.

  • Chaska Middle School West
    Chaska, Minnesota

    “The Next Generation of Music” involves transforming music education from how it has been taught the last 100 years and making it relevant, rigorous and interesting for today’s students.  Typical elective music courses will be overhauled into courses where students perform popular music genres like hip hop and electronica, compose music, produce and record music—all while still l

  • Lighthouse Community Charter School
    Oakland, California

    Lighthouse Creation Studio” is designed to help students, ages five through 19, learn and apply STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) skills to real-world problems and ideas in new and innovative ways.  Older students will learn how to use conventional hand and power tools and computer-aided design (CAD) to design parts and test assembly.  The younger students will learn to make their ideas a reality by using age-appropriate materials and programming kits.  Vanderwerff has found that students are motivated by their own ideas while being encouraged by mentors,


  • Edmondson Westside High School
    Baltimore, Maryland

    "Fully Actuated Simulation Trainer (FAST)” is Preston’s winning project that will create a fully actuated, six degrees of motion simulator. It was inspired by a student who recognized the disparities between their school and another area school that has a flight simulator. Although they were given a flight simulator game for the computer, they claimed the experiences were not the same.

  • Clara J. Peck Elementary School
    Greensboro, North Carolina

    Rooks’ winning program, “Whole Village Saturday Academy,” is designed to educate parents while also educating the students at Clara J. Peck Elementary School. Nearly half of the students at the school are not native English speakers; once they leave school, little English is often spoken at home. Parents are a child’s first teacher and want to help their children thrive in school and in the community. The program seeks to help build the relationship between home and school to help students succeed.

  • Oakland International High School
    Oakland, California

    Bui’s winning program, “A Nation of Immigrants,” is an oral history project for students at Oakland International High School. The students, who are in the 11th grade, are all English Language Learners and recent immigrants to the United States. Bui, who is teaching a computer class this year, is collaborating with a U.S. History teacher and a group of other teachers to enhance the U.S. History class through an interdisciplinary unit and multimedia project.


  • Troy High School
    Troy, Michigan

    Brewer’s winning project, “Mini-Med School: Simulating Surgeries”, is designed to move 11th and 12th grade biology students at Troy High School from simply dissecting preserved specimens to also performing mock surgical procedures on the organs. After they go through classroom learning about the anatomy of the heart, the next day, they will dissect the preserved heart, and then the following day, they will learn that their “patient” had a heart attack, and they will have to diagnose and treat the symptoms.

  • Valley View Elementary School
    Phoenix, Arizona

    “Planting Seeds, Growing Communities”, is Smith’s winning program that is designed to create a more sustainable farm in the desert. He’s building off of Valley View Elementary School’s existing activities in “The Orchard”; 7.5 acres of farmland located near the school’s campus leased in partnership with a local energy company. With the help of the ING grant, Smith wants to take “The Orchard” fieldwork to another level.

  • Central High School
    Kansas City, Missouri

    Shipley’s powerful winning project, “Segregation Denied”, is a documentary and podcasting initiative that will include students of Central High School interviewing former students who graduated in 1959, the first fully integrated class of Central High after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954. It forces two different demographic groups, who currently live in isolated and separated neighborhoods, to discuss their differences through one common ground – Central High School.


  • Common Ground High School
    New Haven, Connecticut

    Stone's winning "Environmental Ventures" program is designed to influence the students to become the next generation of green entrepreneurs. Students will plan, launch and run more than 10 small businesses that turn produce from Common Ground's urban farm into value-added environmentally-friendly products. While doing so, they will learn valuable skills and concepts including how to lead teams, develop and market a product, create strategic and business plans, speak in public, create budgets and make decisions.

  • Jefferson Middle School
    Albuquerque, New Mexico

    "Compose! Create! Collaborate!: Motivating Minds Through Music," the winning program developed by Janov, is designed to give hundreds of middle school students with a wide range of academic abilities and socioeconomic backgrounds the opportunity to utilize a state-of-art rehearsal and studio recording music lab. The students will have a chance to become recording engineers and composers as they rehearse and record together in a step-by-step studio production of their own music.

  • Cherokee High School
    Canton, Georgia

    Singleton's winning initiative, "M.O.S.T.: Meeting Our Standards Together," is a collaboration between the general and special education departments at Cherokee High School. Typically, the special education students learn in self-contained classes. This program brings together both groups of students with a vision of having them work and learn as a team. It is designed to provide increased opportunities for students with significant cognitive difficulties to participate in the general education curriculum.


  • Commack High School
    Commack, New York
    Kaplan, Kurtz, Nolan, and several strategic community business, social, and educational partners, created the winning program, "Real Problems/Real Solutions: Service Engineering Program," to encourage students to apply their engineering knowledge to solve real problems for people who are "differently-abled." The community service program offers students at Commack High School a hands-on experience to design and construct devices to improve the lives of those who face specific physical and mental challenges.
  • Monroe Area High School
    Monroe, Georgia
    Giacchino and her colleagues, Peacock and Sutton, developed "Genes to Jobs," a biotechnology project that will introduce students at Monroe Area High School to science professionals and allow them to operate equipment used in research laboratories. Students will complete laboratory experiences that represent the major techniques used in the biotechnology industry. Such experiences include conducting DNA fingerprinting with gel electrophoresis and genetically transforming bacteria and purifying proteins through chromatography.
  • Community Magnet Charter School
    Los Angeles, California
    "Solarbotics" is the winning program created by Saunders and his colleagues, where teams of third-grade students at the Community Magnet Charter School will build a remote-controlled, battery-powered robot. The 60 "scientists" will convert the robot to run on solar power while gathering data and conducting research to help them compare the environmental, financial, and performance factors of solar power and battery power robots.


  • Laurel High School
    Los Alamitos, California
    Over the years, Robert Ostmann has worked relentlessly to keep Laurel High School students in school. His latest creative business ideas just might have what it takes to keep at-risk students in class, as well as preparing them for productive adult lives.
  • Friendship Collegiate Academy
    Washington, District Of Columbia
    "World at Your Doorstep" is a cross-curricular project designed by Engineering teacher Christian Schaefer to use technology to forge real and personal connections with people of other cultures. In doing so, approximately 150 students will learn to appreciate their own city, gain an understanding of other cultures, develop design-and-engineering skills, and acquire important technology know-how that will benefit them both as students and future professionals.
  • Rose Spring Elementary School
    Stansbury Park, Utah
    Robertson's "Homework Jungle: By Kids 4 Kids" Web site will contain student-created and taught lessons on the exact skills that Rose Springs Elementary third and fifth-grade students need for their math, science and language arts assignments.


  • 68th Street Elementary School
    Los Angeles, California
    "Write On!" is a project-based program developed by Felix that integrates writing, English, photography, technology and web design into the teaching curriculum for his third-grade students at 68th Street Elementary School. The students use technology to research, write, edit and create a library of books which are then made available as e-books online. They learn how to use a digital camera, download and edit photographs, create and print pages and publish and upload their books on the Internet. In the past, the students have done all of their work using only one computer.
  • Bryan Community High School
    Lincoln, Nebraska
    "Life Stories: An Intergenerational Project" is a program developed by Bendler, Larson and Tracy that promotes youth development through service learning. Students at Bryan Community High School are paired with elder partners from the community based on the elders' hobbies and interests. The students meet with their partners weekly to build positive relationships and gather information about them. Each elder provides photographs that represent their life along with a written description of each image.
  • Union City Middle-High School
    Union City, Pennsylvania
    Baron's winning idea, "LITERATE", is an early literacy outreach program to provide a blueprint for high school students at Union City Middle-High School who want to help young children learn to read. Each year, Baron will work with 15-25 incoming freshmen to instruct them on emergent literacy education. Under her tutelage, the students will learn how to teach reading strategies and skills to socially disadvantaged families with young children throughout the district.


  • Clinton Middle School
    Clinton, Tennessee
    Herrell's "Extreme Makeover: Middle School Edition" service learning program will teach students at Clinton Middle School how to use engineering principles for civic purposes in their community and beyond. The project will help improve the homes of those touched by tragedy through the application of carpentry, landscaping and design skills by his students. Participating students will complete projects after school, on weekends and on breaks. Students will also aid in the selection of makeover applicants, showing their involvement throughout the entire process.
  • Open Meadow Middle School
    Portland, Oregon
    Students often study the environment in science classes but rarely have the opportunity to personally impact it. Smithers' program, "Waste Not, Want Not: Making Vegetable Bio-fuel from Waste Vegetable Oil", gives at-risk participants in grades sixth through eighth, a chance to develop a usable alternate fuel. This past year at Open Meadow Middle School, his students began making small batches of bio-diesel in the classroom. After developing a processor to handle the production of larger quantities of the bio-diesel, the students made 135 gallons of the fuel.
  • South Lafourche High School
    Galliano, Louisiana
    St. Pierre developed "Computer Architecture Learn & Serve" to help salvage old computers and computer parts. Students at South Lafourche High School refurbish donated computers and parts and put them back into working circulation in classrooms, libraries, and community-based programs as well as homes of children in such programs as ESL (English as a Second Language) and special education. While participating in the project, students learn hands-on skills that prepare them to take the A+ certification right out of high school.


  • Pecan Park Elementary School
    Jackson, Mississippi
    As an ExCEL teacher, a program specially designed by Pecan Park Elementary School, Carlisle provides project-based activities that directly impact her students learning capabilities. By developing the “Kenyan Project,” Carlisle helped her students understand the people of Kenya, their culture, resources and environment. She has also helped her students develop an understanding of free enterprise by allowing them to focus on economics and help Kenyan children. Her students came up with several products to sell which generated $650 worth of income for Kenyan schools.
  • Hannibal High School
    Hannibal, New York
    Knowing that energy issues are becoming increasingly important and that today’s students are the future engineers of tomorrow, Burch came up with the “Wind or PV (Photovoltaic): What Should it Be? program to help raise students’ awareness of energy education. In the program, physics and environmental students will become hands-on researchers and engineers of two types of renewable energy generation systems for possible implementation in the school district.
  • Rio Grande City High School Rio Grande City
    Rio Grande City, Alabama
    Crawford and Dyer’s culturally relevant project idea, “Voices of the Valley,” will incorporate rigorous academic development, student-directed investigations, and critical thinking skills as an impetus to self-reflection. Over 260 students will conduct interviews with local members of their community about their immigration experiences. High scholar students will follow a 5-step writing process to transform the interview transcripts into a vivid and well-written one-page narrative which will result in a 2,300-page book of the students’ writing to evoke community pride.


  • Apache High School
    Apache, Oklahoma
    The students at Apache High School, with the help and guidance of Charles, have built an "Independent Student Theatre" program that allows students to have drama performances at the school. With no auditorium at the school but the desire to start an extracurricular drama program, students secured a sizable room and the permission to transform it into a theater. The students relied upon personal means to provide all necessary materials, labor and time to work on the project after school and on weekends.
  • Southgate Anderson High School
    Southgate, Michigan
    Kassuba's "Cyber Citizens" project expands community and student opportunities in technology by creating a partnership between high school students and local senior citizens. Student participants are connected with residents of a nearby retirement community, and work throughout the school year to teach their senior citizen partners how to use computers and the Internet for research, communication and entertainment. Seniors, partnered with students, create their own email accounts and interactive Web sites, and explore the wealth of information available on the Internet.
  • Lyle Creek Elementary School
    Conover, North Carolina
    Alfaro's project, "Partners in Print" helps Spanish-speaking kindergarten through second grade students learn English by providing bilingual reading and math activities for parents and children. Hispanic students and their parents attend monthly meetings at the school library to focus on reading strategies using bilingual teaching and learning tools. Parents are exposed to different strategies and techniques to help their children learn, and the students have the opportunity to check out bilingual books to take home with them.


  • Dorothy Thomas School
    Tampa, Florida
    Wise's "Kids and Canines" project teaches truant, at-risk middle school students the value of commitment, problem solving and giving back to the community. This project pairs at-risk students with a puppy that they train over a two-year period, during which they are responsible for the animal's daily care, training and socialization. At the end of this two-year period, the dogs are given to physically disabled individuals in the Tampa Bay area. Students work with these individuals to pair them with a good canine match, and to help the dogs transition to their new owner.
  • Lancaster High
    Lancaster, South Carolina
    Knight's "Improving LearnTV's On-Site Productions" project is a broadcast journalism class where students work with adults to create programming for the government access channel. Students are responsible for script writing, set design, contacting and arranging for guests, graphic creation and final production, and writing press releases for the local newspaper. Students tape the shows live and produce short public service announcements on topics like parenthood, addiction, teen pregnancy and peer pressure.
  • Oak Glen High School
    New Cumberland, West Virginia
    Glodowski's "ABILITIES Newsletter" project develops friendships and partnerships between students of various ability levels. The collaborative project brings together mainstream students and students with moderate mental disabilities to create a school newsletter using various technology equipment. Adaptive technology and assistive equipment allows students who do not possess the capability to read, write or type on their own to use a computer.


  • Century Senior High School
    Bismarck, North Dakota
    Lee & Palmer's "Preserving Their Stories" project combines American history and American literature to preserve local history through student documentaries. At the beginning of the school year, 90 students choose a historic event and conduct interviews in their community to capture true accounts of that moment in time. Through use of cameras and videotape, the students get the satisfaction sharing a completed project with contributors and the public. Documentary showings have brought high emotions and a fantastic opportunity to educate all, outside the classroom, about local history.
  • Lafayette Elementary School
    San Diego, California
    Rowe's "Signing With Our Friends" program teaches hearing students American Sign Language (ASL) with the assistance of the school's Deaf and Hard of Hearing program students, who make up nearly one-fifth of the student body. This student-to-student program matches deaf classes with hearing classes 2 to 3 times a week during the school year. The focus of the sessions is to teach hearing students ASL skills that can be used on a day-to-day basis with their deaf classmates.
  • Kearney Middle School
    Commerce City, Colorado
    The "Lets Go To College" program proposed by four teachers of Kearney Middle School is designed to encourage and support academically capable students who might not otherwise apply seek post-high school education. To accomplish this, the program tutors students for the ACT/SAT exams, helps with resumes and portfolios, and assists with college applications. Through student-parent meetings, guidance counselor interaction and personal support, the program makes a college education a reality for participants.


  • Benjamin Franklin Senior High School
    New Orleans, Louisiana
    Hightower's "Techmobile: A Tool for Teaching and Learning" project makes an impact on K-12 students as it introduces and integrates technology into different classrooms. In an effort to bridge "the digital divide," Techmobile, a mobile laptop computer lab, brings technology-enhanced learning to students and teachers in elementary and middle schools throughout Orleans Parish. The Benjamin Franklin students who oversee the lessons undergo intensive training to become effective tutors and target strategies for incorporating computers into the classroom.
  • Aledo Middle School
    Aledo, Texas
    Hodges' "The Wild Side and Living Museum" project involves K-8 students in an innovative study of science and nature. The Wild Side is a garden, planted and maintained by middle school students, complete with a pond, bird feeders, and nest boxes. Visiting elementary school students tour the garden and proceed inside to the Living Museum, a classroom converted to a habitat of more than 50 live animals (ranging from parrots and iguanas to tarantulas and millipedes). Puppet shows, written and performed by seventh graders, explore animal behavior and environmental issues.
  • West High School
    Bakersfield, California
    Holmes' "Positive Youth Development Program" is a health advocacy project that improves the overall well-being of students at West High and surrounding elementary schools. The campus-wide project involves various activities: health fair, the creation of a tobacco- and drug-prevention mural, campaigns to promote healthier diets, a performing arts festival, and a suicide prevention program. The project also includes trained Student Health Advocates and the creation of the Tobacco Prevention Puppets, aimed at K-2 students.


  • Skyview High School
    Nampa, Idaho
    Williams' "Project Van Go" provides schools and rural communities with free hands-on workshops in art education. The outreach program is aimed at students, parents, and other teachers in remote areas, bringing art into the lives of many who would otherwise not have the exposure. Workshops may involve mask-making, murals, weaving, pottery, and batik. Lessons also include historical background and analysis of finished work. In addition, Skyview students travel as assistants, gaining the experience of engaging in the creative process with those in other towns and states.
  • Greenwood High School
    Greenwood, Mississippi
    Wilkens' "Wetland Ecosystem Research" project works in conjunction with the Biology I unit at GHS and focuses on the development of laboratory and fieldwork skills. Students visit a local wetland once a week to conduct individually designed research projects. Among other activities, they interpret topographical maps, survey local flora and fauna, and perform soil and water analyses. This active involvement increases scientific knowledge and proficiency. By having students discover
  • Locke Hill Elementary
    San Antonio, Texas
    Carson's "Challenge Lab" is an enrichment/acceleration program that implements "curriculum compacting," an approach which eliminates review for students who have already mastered appropriate skills. To determine mastery, students take a pretest before each math and English unit. High-achievers attend the Challenge Lab, where they complete enrichment courses aligned with their skill levels and participate in special activities that further abilities and confidence. The benefits of confident, self-motivated students are felt throughout the school and community.


  • LaCueva High School
    Albuquerque, New Mexico
    Tennison's "Student Mentorship Program in Education" project is designed to take a proactive approach to the projected loss of teachers in the future. Students are paired with teachers and follow them throughout the day, helping them teach and monitor recess and lunch periods. In addition, students help prepare lessons for the school's daycare program and also formed a chapter of the Future Educators of America, which they hope to expand through out the state. Members of the school's chapter of the FEA are also organizing conferences and mentoring programs for elementary and middle schools.
  • Walnut Street School
    Woodbury, New Jersey
    Kelly's "Hollywood Kids" project gives students with learning disabilities a chance to write and star in their own movie. The students work after school and on weekends to write, film and edit a movie. The movie then premieres for the students and their parents. The project helps the students gain confidence in their skills and develop other important ones.
  • Central Middle School
    Kokomo, Indiana
    McCarter's "Space Lab & Mars Room" project gives students a chance to participate in their own space mission. Students apply for and train for specific jobs related to a space mission and then conduct this mission in a model space station and space shuttle. The program encourages students to become more involved in school activities and math and science classes.


  • Kendall Demonstration Elementary School
    Washington, District Of Columbia
    Schleper's Shared Reading Project was designed to improve the literacy skills of deaf students, by emphasizing the impact parents have on their children. Because 42 percent of the students live in homes where English is not the primary language, one of the main goals of the program is to successfully teach all the students both English and American Sign Language.
  • Jack D. Gordon Elementary
    Miami, Florida
    Davis' program, Kids 4 Kids, involved a variety of outreach programs by elementary students to homeless children, children in protective custody, and children afflicted with HIV and AIDS. Outreach efforts ranged from providing backpacks with basic school supplies, becoming pen pals with children living in shelters, and developing activity packets for hospitalized children in conjunction with holidays to serving as ambassadors to a local news station on topics related to children's issues.
  • St. Patrick High School
    Chicago, Illinois
    Grishaber's Ultimate Road Trip project gave students $20,000 in an imaginary checking account which they used to buy a car and finance insurance and other expenses. In addition, they were given an imaginary credit card for other expenses. Students then "drove" their car around the country, visiting specific companies. To earn money, students were asked specific questions about company web sites, with correct answers earning them play money. The program taught students money management skills and economic principles which will become lifetime skills for them.


  • Hazel Valley School
    Seattle, Washington
    Bailey's project goal is to provide a community school within a low income apartment complex that will enhance the elementary students' ability to succeed in school and provide outreach activities for their families. The program involves the establishment of an after school tutoring and homework center in the apartment complex and provides easy access for parental and sibling involvement in learning activities.
  • Orchard Park Elementary School
    Kettering, Ohio
    Moore-Goad's project involves a hands-on science unit that culminates with a family field trip to encourage family participation. The science adventures promote and extend the experiences in the classroom and encourage family learning.
  • Dr. James Hogan Senior High School
    Vallejo, California
    Lege's project, HI-TEC (Help Implement a Technology Enhanced Curriculum) combined a core mathematical curriculum with modern technology. Students developed a broad understanding of mathematics by engaging in activities that build a concrete awareness of the power and utilization of math. Evaluation of the program involves a comparison between students from HI-TEC and a traditional program on a variety of parameters, including attrition rate, SAT scores, college admissions results, and professional goals attained.


  • Audubon Elementary School
    Dubuque, Iowa
    Fordice created this year-long project called "Bethany Home Biography." By traveling to a nearby nursing home several times during the year, students interviewed nursing home residents about their lives. Each student then wrote a biography about their interview subject. The students developed listening, speaking, and creative writing skills. They also learned about history through the stories of their subjects as well as developing relationships with them.
  • Christiansburg Elementary School
    Christiansburg, Virginia
    Ney's UNITES utilized children's literature to make connections between mathematics, science, and technology. Broken into themes, students worked on problem-solving activities that incorporated reading a literature selection. As a result, student test scores and positive attitudes toward science, math, and technology improved.
  • Charles H. Milby High School
    Houston, Texas
    Simmons' project, I.M. S.M.A.R.T. (Integrating Mathematics and Science at Milby through Alternative-fuel Research and Testing)," integrated math and science to make both subjects easier to learn and more interesting. Students worked in teams to design and construct an alternative fuel vehicle capable of transporting one person the distance of one kilometer. The program resulted in increased attendance, cooperative learning, and improved test results.