BENNINGTON -- Grace Christian School history teacher Susan Aalderink has been named one of 100 educators nationwide who will be receiving a $2,000 "Unsung Heroes" grant, an award program created by ING Financial Services.
ING began the ING Unsung Heroes program in 1996 to demonstrate the company's commitment to the education community.
Over the past 17 years, the program has awarded more than $4 million to 1,800 kindergarten through grade 12 educators for their innovative teaching methods and creative educational projects.
This year's winners were selected from a group of nearly 1,300 applications from across the country.
"We're honored to salute these outstanding teachers for their ideas and dedication to our youth," said Jamie Ohl, president of Tax-Exempt Markets for ING U.S. Retirement Solutions. "With this grant, Susan Aalderink's project can continue to make an impact on the children she serves."
Aalderink will implement her winning program, "Using Social Media to Create Social Change," at Grace Christian School this fall.
As part of the high school curriculum, students make a semi-annual trip to Guatemala where they provide support to an orphanage and build houses for local families.
Aalderink's program will encourage students to write and publish blog entries to document their experiences.
The goal of the program, Aalderink said in a press release, is to show how teens can make a difference in the world and to create awareness around social issues.
Before arriving in Guatemala, students will participate in a social media course, develop the structure for the blog and learn the technical aspects needed to create a blog.
In addition to blogging about the trip, students will also be able to raise awareness about local social issues and service opportunities when they return to Bennington. "Ultimately, the program will help students see how technology and blogging can be used to create change and generate awareness," Aalderink said. "I hope it will enhance their critical thinking skills and allow them to realize the power of technology."
Aalderink will now compete against the other 2013 Unsung Heroes winners for one of the top three prizes: an additional $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000 from ING.
To learn more about this year's Unsung Heroes winning projects, as well as those from previous years, visit www.unsungheroes.com.
Applications for the 2014 ING Unsung Heroes awards are currently being accepted through the website.
Contact Elizabeth Conkey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bethconkey.