The Bessie Minor Swift Foundation awards $74,500 in grants

Staff report

The Bessie Minor Swift Foundation, formed by the owners and founder of Swift Communications, awards grants to programs that promote literacy, reading and writing skills as well as programs that focus on the arts, languages and sciences. Since 2008, more than $375,000 has been awarded to 145 organizations in the communities where Swift Communications conducts business.

The deadline for 2016 grant applications was Feb. 15 and more than 160 applications were received. The Foundation grant criteria calls for detail on how many people will be impacted by the organization’s project and how significant a role the Bessie Minor Swift Foundation will play in the program. Further, applicants must provide a complete description of the project including objectives and strategies to meet those objectives, explain how the project will be evaluated and submit a budget. Recipients will report on their results and insights from their program once the projects are completed.

This year, applications were of exceptional quality and more than $74,500 has been awarded to 36 deserving organizations. The Bessie Minor Swift Foundation thanks the many groups that took the time and energy to apply and encourages those that were not selected to submit applications in the future. Applications will be accepted again starting Jan. 1, 2017 with a deadline of Feb. 15, 2017. For more information, visit the Bessie Minor website at

2016 Bessie Minor Swift Foundation Grants by State / County

36 Recipients

$74,763.16 Awarded


Pitkin County

Pitkin County Library



The Pitkin County Library will purchase an electric book bike to distribute books to people who may not be library patrons. The bike will also allow for demonstration of the library’s online resources via a wi-fi hotspot. The book bike will travel to festivals and public gathering places.

Aspen Community School

Woody Creek


The school garden at Aspen Community School provides students in kindergarten through the eighth grade with opportunities to reinforce reading, writing, art, music, math, science and social skills. Funds will purchase nonfiction and fiction leveled books, blank journals, magnifying lenses, worm boxes, seeds and art supplies to be used in the garden.

Garfield County

Carbondale Middle School



Funds will purchase young adult literature that is current, appropriately themed for grade levels 5 through 8 and of high interest. All students meet daily in small teacher-led groups designed to create strong relationships and improve student literacy. The novels will be used as content for the programming.

Roaring Fork High School



Twenty copies of Ta-Nehisi Coate’s book Between the World and Me will be used in a collaborative unit between United States History and English classes on Civil Rights in American history. The objectives of this project are to challenge 9th grade students to read a thought provoking and challenging text while connecting the struggle for Civil Rights with modern issues surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement.

Family Visitor Programs of Garfield County

Glenwood Springs


Through the “Read to Me” program 50 families will receive education and a book during monthly scheduled home visits. Parents will learn why they should read to their babies as well as how to read to them. Parents will also be assessed for their language skills and be referred to adult literacy programs if it’s appropriate.

Glenwood Springs Arts Council

Glenwood Springs


Funds will purchase supplies and instructor time for the Painting Pages program. Painting Pages is an art and literacy outreach collaboration between the Arts council and the local public library. Elementary school children experience live storytelling and then write about the story and create a piece of art interpreting the story. Their writing samples and artwork go home with them, along with an improved understanding of the creative process.

Eagle County

Homestake Peak School



A reading challenge that will take place from the first day of school in August through Read Across America Day on March 2 (the birthdate of Dr. Seuss). The school will provide students with weekly charts to keep track of their daily reading goals and hold monthly reading assemblies where students would have opportunities to experience author visits. Funds will be used to purchase books in English and Spanish and to support author visits.

Roaring Fork Conservancy



Funds will support field trips for 400 middle school students in the Roaring Fork Valley (including the towns of Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt and Aspen) who will participate in the Snow Science Field Trip. During fieldwork students will learn two methods of calculating the water content of snow, helping them to make the connection between winter snowpack and summer water supply.

Red Sandstone Elementary School



Fountas and Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy Intervention system will support a reading intervention program in the 2nd grade by enabling teachers to target students who are reading below grade level and provide small group supplemental instruction. Take home versions of the kits extend the experience beyond the school.

Grand County

Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District


During daily “Reading and Rest” periods, students are encouraged to choose books and read individually or with friends, leading to conversation and dialogue amongst them. A digital audio hub with headphones will serve the youngest readers. Funds will purchase books, beanbags, a listening center for non-readers and a display bookcase to support and encourage language development in afterschool and summer day camp programs.

The Friends of Grand County Library, Inc.



LEGO starter kits and books purchased with these funds are part of the Discovery Club after-school program. Discovery Club encourages the use of imagination, problem solving and teamwork skills to learn science, technology, engineering and mathematical concepts. Monthly themes encourage third to fifth graders to solve real world problems.

Grand County Historical Association

Hot Sulphur Springs


The Association will publish a young reader’s local history book A to Z: Your Grand County History Alphabet. The book will encourage reading, parental involvement and community pride, and will be supplemented with an exhibit for classroom, library, and special events.

Summit County

Summit County Preschool



Take home backpacks will be filled with books, flashcards, LeapFrog products and manipulative learning tools so that the children can read and practice early literacy and math skills at home. These will be deployed in bilingual or low-income homes. A parent meeting will be held so that parents have a firsthand look at the learning materials being used in school and to help them identify materials they might add at home. Parents will complete a communication form to share the activities that were completed.

Weld County

Dos Rios Elementary School



Science books, novel sets, garden tools, cooking utensils and chrome books will be used in conjunction with the school’s Culture Garden/Un Jardin con Cultura. Diverse students and their families read, enjoy audio books, use technology and garden in a colorful garden of vegetables and native plants. In monthly meetings a fifth grader and their parents cook and share a dish and stories from their culture and country.

Greeley Central High School



The Central Reads program encourages students to become life-long readers through programs held weekly during the lunch hour. Funds will purchase books, crafts and games to support Central Reads program. In partnership with the High Plains Library District and local restaurants, students are encouraged to participate in activities related to the book being read by the group. Meetings have included live readings, discussion and Skype sessions with the author of the book.

Salida del Sol Academy



Purchase of Guided Reading en Español leveled readers for K-3 will expand an intervention program for below grade level readers. Salida del Sol Academy follows the Gomez & Gomez dual language education methodology, an evidenced based methodology that has proven to be successful at schools where the majority of the students come from Spanish speaking homes. Students are taught in both English and Spanish with the goal that when they graduate, they will be competent in all Common Core content areas in both English and Spanish.

RSVP of Weld County



Books are given out as part of a reading program in which volunteers serve kindergarten through fourth grade students reading below grade level. RSVP partners with schools and works with them to maintain progress reports and hold student recognition events. During the 2015-2016 school years, there were over 35 reading partners serving approximately 150 students in 31 schools.


Nevada County

Bell Hill Academy

Grass Valley, CA


The school’s Global Studies / Dual Immersion program focuses on a different continent for the entire year during each year K-4. By the end of those years students will know about the major continents and will be more globally aware and ready for today’s society. These funds will pay for a storyteller who will share about the literature of each continent. This project will impact the entire student body of 205 students.

Chicago Park School

Grass Valley, CA


Field trips for 2nd through 5th grade students will provide an opportunity to walk to a local pond and rotate through science stations. Students will learn about the water cycle, the life cycle and importance of amphibians, play predator-prey games and collect phytoplankton and zooplankton from the pond. After lunch the students will return to the school lab and use microscopes to discover what they have collected from the pond. This program is executed in partnership with Sierra Streams Institute.

Arts Collaborative of Nevada County

Grass Valley, CA


These funds will bring 30 model lessons incorporating California Art Standards and 3rd grade Common Core curriculum in language arts, math, science, and social studies to two additional school districts. One hundred 3rd grade students will receive weekly standards-based art lessons. Funds will pay for teaching artists and materials and will be matched by participating school districts.

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation

Grass Valley, CA


A total of 750 children’s books will be distributed to local families with children ages six months to five years during pediatric well baby visits. This grant will also allow for printing of educational materials that accompany the books. By providing advice, educational materials and books local pediatricians reinforce the importance of early literacy.

Seven Hills School Bicycle Recycle Project

Nevada City, CA


The Bicycle Recycle Project uses hands-on learning to teach engineering and STEM concepts to students as they repair donated bikes which are then given to individuals who need them. Students participate each year from 5th to 8th grade, and each grade level receives curriculum that advances mechanical procedures learned in the previous grade. The students work in teams of two and at the end of their project they report verbally to the class on the work they accomplished. Funds will purchase tools to support the project in Seven Hills School.

Full-Circle Learning

Nevada City, CA


Books and field trips will reinforce biology themes while building literacy and phonemic awareness in preschoolers within families where English is not the first language. These books will be used as part of a bilingual in-home reading program building parents’ capacities to reinforce academic concepts, social skills and pre-reading skills at home.

Sierra Nevada Children’s Museum dba KidZone Museum

Truckee, CA


This spring the museum features a Fairy Tale exhibit called “Once Upon A Time, in a kingdom far away”. The exhibit addresses literacy acquisition for children age six and under through an interactive exhibit in which children and families learn by playing together. Bessie Minor Swift Foundation funds will be used to purchase hardbound books of original fairy tales and to pay for storytellers and a sing-along musician.

El Dorado County

Bijou Community School

South Lake Tahoe, CA


Eight copies each of 30 Spanish language nonfiction (science and social studies) books will be used in K-3 grade levels for 264 students. The objectives of this project are to provide students with engaging and appropriately challenging nonfiction texts in Spanish, to broaden the variety of books available to students in the primary grades and to increase the number of books teachers have available for small group reading instruction.

Club Literario Hispano program of the South Lake Tahoe Family Resource Center

South Lake Tahoe, CA


Club Literario Hispano is a book club for adult Hispanic women who meet monthly in two separate groups. The club encourages reading, discussion and additional education at the local Community College. Occasionally the club has the opportunity to meet with authors of the books they’ve read. Funds will go to purchase books for the group.

Lake Tahoe Unified School District

South Lake Tahoe, CA


A learning easel, big book sets and an I Can Read book set will be purchased for the 1st grade. The objective of the program is to increase the reading abilities of young students, to help them make the jump to independent reading and foster a lifelong love of reading. The books will be used in the classroom and will be taken home over weekends and holidays.

Lake Tahoe Unified School District

South Lake Tahoe, CA


Purchase of 200 picture books will build a lending library in the preschool for children with special needs. The objective is to create a diverse library where children can check out a new book each day to be taken home in book bags provided by the teachers and read at home with their families.

South Lake Tahoe Humane Society, Inc. Reading Buddies

South Lake Tahoe, CA


New books along with paper and printing for forms, flyers and bookmarks will be used as part of the “My Reading Buddy” program. This program helps youth improve their literary skills by reading out loud to a non-judgmental, friendly dog and handler/tutor. “My Reading Buddy” works with over 200 children at the local library and Boys & Girls Club. Each child’s progress is monitored and at the end of the program they receive a certificate and a book.

Tahoe Valley Elementary School

South Lake Tahoe, CA


Leveled, high-interest, paired fiction and non-fiction texts will support TK-3 at-risk students’ reading skills while developing lagging background knowledge, vocabulary and higher order thinking skills. This program will also train adults to develop and accelerate reading skills while incorporating STEM.


Carson City

Brewery Arts Center

Carson City, NV


The Arts in the Park program parks a motorhome between a neighborhood school and a park several days a week throughout the summer. Each week a different instructor working out of the motorhome provides a free art lesson to youth of all ages and then helps expand language skills by talking about the art and its impact. Funds will pay for teacher time and supplies. The program hopes to expand to two locations this summer.


Get in the Act! Arts in Action

Stateline, NV


Science Theater is a three-week program that will advance art and S.T.E.M. learning for 500 students at Fremont Elementary School in Carson City. Professionally trained artists and educators will use hands-on, dynamic theater techniques to enhance STEM concepts for elementary students. Each K-4 class will participate in two lessons for a total of 38 lessons.

Washoe County

Incline Elementary School

Incline Village, NV


Robotics Club will purchase 15 Ozobot robots and an instructor curriculum from Exploring Robotics. The Club encourages creativity and critical thinking, establishes linkages between different subjects and builds a positive after school program for students. The Robotics Club will engage 80 students over the course of the year, and the robots will be incorporated into the 5th grade science curriculum as well.


Douglas County

Umpqua Community College Foundation

Roseburg, OR


Books, furnishings and literacy resources will be purchased for “Bessie’s Corner”, the learning hub and imagination center for three classrooms at the Ford Childhood Enrichment Center. Swift Communications no longer serves the community of Roseburg, but has great appreciation for the work of Umpqua Community College and great sorrow for the tragedy on their campus last fall. In the nine years since it was formed, the Bessie Minor Swift Foundation has provided 7 grants to the Umpqua Community College Foundation.


Prairie County

Terry Public Schools

Terry, MT


These funds will support the creation and marketing of a school annual and articles submitted to local papers about Terry’s 160 K-12 students. Funds will purchase computers for project use, a digital camcorder and associated software. The “Terry Roving Reporters” project will allow for mentoring of reporters in k-12 who will be selected by teachers on a rotating basis. The students will produce three seasonal newspapers (hard copy and digital with video) for the school’s webpage.


Taylor County

Western Taylor County Public Library

Gilman, WI


Early childhood literacy “Traveling Tales” themed kits will be created that include books, activity sheets, music CD’s, and puppets. These kits are resources young families and in-home day care centers can check out to share, and library staff can utilize them during Story Time and other early childhood programming events