As we’ve mentioned before, the Moody Foundation, based in Galveston, Texas, is one of the most powerful grantmakers in Texas, and education is a key cause for this funder. It used to focus pretty exclusively on Galveston, but lately, Dallas and Austin have been heavily in the mix. Historically, a little less than one-third of Moody grants have gone to education, making this funding category only second to community and social causes.
Now, Moody has really solidified itself as a prominent education grantmaker with a huge $5.8 million grant to the Highland Park Independent School District. Given the current climate of education funding these days, it should come as no big surprise that the money is going towards science, math, engineering, technology, and the arts (STEAM). Highland Park Independent School District is a public school district in the Dallas–Fort Worth area.
This massive grant is going to the Highland Park Education Foundation and it sets a record: the largest donation to an education foundation in Texas. This Moody money will be going towards experiential learning, collaborative problem solving, and technology enhancements in the STEAM fields. Moody has been a long-time supporter of arts education, but we’re just now seeing its larger influence in the STEM fields too.
There was a fair amount of “pomp and circumstance” that followed the announcement of this gift, including a student rendition of a Broadway song from Rent and a balloon drop. Teachers here are hopeful that the new STEAM money from Moody will help students of all kinds, even special needs students, and in all subjects, even spilling over into the humanities. Basically, there’s a lot of hope in the air right now at Highland Park.
One key thing to note from a grantmaking perspective is that Highland Park already had a good thing going on before it secured Moody’s millions. For example, Highland Park students have already been getting better ACT and SAT scores than the regional average. So this isn’t exactly the underprivileged, underperforming type of school that some funders tend to gravitate towards. Jamie Williams, who’s the foundation’s director of regional grants for North Texas, said that te foundation chose this location because it already had something good to build upon.
Although this is a huge sum of money, it’s important to understand that it’s going to an entire district and will be spread equally across quite a few different schools. And while the Moody Foundation has been ultra-committed to this school district, it’s still giving it some “wiggle room” to let it figure out the details. In fact, it has given a steering committee one year to research and find the best ways to customize STEAM learning across all of its schools.
"As a leading district, we want to provide learning opportunities for kids that excite them and make them strongly consider these majors," Highland Park ISD Superintendent Tom Trigg said. "We want to put something together that can be replicated in other districts."
More information about how Moody is building a bigger, better Texas can be found on the funder’s website. In addition to education, this is a funder that also supports arts, humanities, religion, community, social causes, health, and science. Any type of grant inquiry can be submitted for initial review via online form.