Aimee Leaton has been a Portland Trail Blazers fan for years, and now she has even more reason to root for her favorite NBA team.
Through the efforts of Leaton, a language arts teacher and volleyball coach at Stephens Middle School, the school received a $4,900 grant from the Trail Blazers Foundation as part of their “Take it to the court for Education” program.
Submissions were received from 60 different cities in Oregon and southwest Washington. Sixteen schools received grants this year totaling $100,000 from the Trail Blazers Foundation, in partnership with Wells Fargo, toward funding for their academic, art, athletic or community programs.
The grants were presented last Saturday during a pregame reception prior to the Blazers’ home game against Washington at Moda Center.
Stephens Middle School will use the grant to purchase poles, nets and padding for the volleyball program.
“I have applied in the past for things for my classroom and I have never been awarded the grant,” said Leaton, who received a Crystal Apple Award in November for her work in the classroom. “This year I thought, Trail Blazers, athletics, it just makes sense to go for something more athletic.”
In addition to Stephens Middle School, North Salem High School received a $2,500 grant that will help finance the on-going upgrade to the Vikings’ weight room facility.
Leaton, who has coached volleyball at Stephens for eight years, said there are a total of about 170 girls in the seventh and eighth-grade programs.
It has been a big week at Stephens. On Tuesday the school was awarded status as a “demonstration school” for the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program.
“Everything that our students are doing around their scholar behavior and the pride they’re feeling about themselves as scholars, I wanted them to have that same pride about their athletics,” Leaton said. “We don’t always have the best record, but I would like them to feel proud of this space that they spend a lot of time in.”
The new equipment should arrive before the end of the current school year and be in use for practices and games next season in both gyms at Stephens. Volleyball is a fall and winter sport in middle schools.
“It’s pretty exciting for our school and our students,” Stephens principle Jennie Madland said. “We’re awfully proud of her.”
North Salem, which began a fundraising effort late in 2015, installed a new interlocking rubber floor during the holiday break in December. The school has raised approximately half of its goal of $130,000.
“Every little bit helps,” North athletic director Brodie Cavaille said. “At this point structurally, the majority of the project is done. The money is going to continue to update the equipment that is in there.”
ghorowitz@StatesmanJournal.com, or Twitter.com/ghorowitz