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Photo courtesy Karitsa Jones | Hamilton County District 5 school board member Karitsa Jones launched a grant program, Educate 2 Elevate Fund, to support students and families in her district

The Educate 2 Elevate Fund, a grant program created by Hamilton County school board member Karitsa Mosley Jones, aims to provide funds and resources to schools in District 5 outside what's provided in the Hamilton County Schools budget.

Jones told the Times Free Press on Tuesday that members of her community — which includes Brainerd, Lakeside, Harrison, Tyner, Washington Hills and Woodmore — always come together to support one another, but that the fund will provide a safe and vetted way to centralize donations.

"I represent a body of schools where students come from a variety of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, but mainly from backgrounds where there is socioeconomic hardship, so they come from communities where there are deserts financially, educationally, socially and food deserts, even for physically thriving," Jones said. "So what I wanted to do was establish a way and a means in which there was a way and a process that the community could donate, and people could donate to those schools and that money be used to support the needs that we cannot financially support as a district, that were beyond what our budget could support."

Jones works in the city of Chattanooga Office of Early Learning and was elected to the school board in 2014. She said the idea for the fund came in 2016 and that she made a personal investment in 2018, but life events over the next two years and the coronavirus pandemic postponed the formal announcement of the program.

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*Schools in Jones’ district:

Brainerd High School

Dalewood Middle School

Harrison Elementary School

Lakeside Academy of Math, Science and Technology

Tyner Academy

Tyner Middle Academy

Washington Alternative Learning Center

Woodmore Elementary

Sharing a goal similar to that of the Mountain Education Foundation, the Educate 2 Elevate Fund has four areas of interest: arts and cultural experiences, leadership and real world readiness development, learning opportunities and learning opportunities centered on science, technology, engineering, liberal arts and math. Funding for the program will come from fundraising, donations and grants, and current donors to the program include CBL Properties, the McKenzie Foundation and the Sankofa Fund for Civic Engagement.

Nicole Prater is a friend of Jones and an educator who graduated from and previously worked in Hamilton County Schools. She is one of the fund's advisers and said she has been involved with the program since the beginning.

"I feel like Hamilton County Department of Education, I think that they do a really, really good job. I look at Educate 2 Elevate as filling in a gap ... especially in those underprivileged areas like [District 5]. So, I just feel that this fund will help fill in the gap and help our scholars and our teachers just move to a different level."

The Educate 2 Elevate Fund's plans for the summer include fundraisers and creating a book club for high school girls. Jones said the fund's advisory board is being finalized and the grant application process should be complete by September.

Contact Anika Chaturvedi at achaturvedi@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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