Crestview HS Key Club Receives $1000 Florida Opportunity Fund Grant

Crestview High School’s Key Club was recently awarded a $1,000 Florida Opportunity Fund (FLOF) grant from the Florida District of Key Club International for their project which incorporates a two-fold environmental encounter course for students with disabilities.

“The first part of the project introduces students to science in our native environment,” said Tammie Dillon, EH Teacher/Exceptional Student Education and Key Club Sponsor.  “The second part of the project is that students will complete a monthly service learning project to actively understand how our ecosystem works, while giving back to our environment.”

Students with special needs will learn about and remove invasive plants, the water in our ecosystem, elements in our environment, and recycling.  They will be a contributing member in the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance and the AmeriCorps Green Team O.Y.S.T.E.R. Shell Recycling Program.  The acronym stands for Offer Your Shell To Enhance Restoration.

“The ultimate goal of the O.Y.S.T.E.R. Shell recycling program is to collect the oyster shells that would otherwise end up in a landfill, and reuse them to construct oyster reef habitats,” said Dillon.  “Oyster reefs create a living shoreline that provides a barrier against waves and boat wake, helping reduce shoreline erosion.”

A living shoreline is a shoreline management option that uses living plants, oyster shells, sand fill, or a combination of natural structures with riprap or offshore breakwaters to protect property from erosion. Living shorelines present an ecological and economic alternative that is viable for low-erosional settings in Choctawhatchee Bay.

“There are 50 students from the Exceptional Student Education program at Crestview High School and 20 Key Club Members who will benefit by participating in this hands-on science curriculum,” said Dillon.  “Additionally, countless Native Floridians and visitors will benefit from cleaning up the surrounding environment and removing invasive plants to allow native florae and vegetation to thrive.  The ecosystem will benefit from preserving natures habitat so the world and its environment can flourish.  The program benefits participants because they are actively involved in the community.  They work cooperatively by sharing knowledge and skills.  The environmental impact is greater because, through meaningful service, more volunteers are contributing to the preservation of our native ecosystem.  Key Club members act as role models and impress that both education and community service is very valuable and possible for everyone.”

The project is highly beneficial to Special Education Students because they are able to transfer what they have learned in the classroom to a real-world setting which shows them what they are learning in school is important in daily life. 

“They are also exposed to a variety of occupations in the “green” field,” said Dillon.  “These occupations include: environmentalist, forest ranger, park ranger, horticulturist, fire fighter, etc.  Exposure develops awareness to the needs of the community while developing work ethics within the academic setting.  The project also gives both ESE and Key Club members the ability to problem-solve and think critically to help find solutions to problems in our environment.  Finally, the project fosters a commitment to community involvement.”

While Dillon serves as the Key Club advisor, Juanita Payne-Galbreath serves as the assistant advisor, and Trace Richter, a Key Club member, is the one who submitted the FLOF (Florida Opportunity Fund) grant application.  The total number of people involved in this project will include 14 Key club members, 2 key club advisors, 5 Kiwanis members and 17 AmeriCorps Volunteers.

“I was reading your club’s FLOF grant application and am very impressed with this project you are planning and wanted to encourage you to enter it in the Single Service Award this year when the time comes in the spring,” said David McCallister, the Florida District of Key Club International District Administer.  “This project is one of the more meaningful and impactful projects I have read about in all of Key Club International for many reasons.  It has an educational component, it involves Key Club members mentoring and empowering special needs youth, it involves several community organizations, it impacts the environment, and it shapes in young people an appreciation for the environment.  This is also a project that falls into this year’s Governor’s Project and will qualify your club and members for other award recognition.”