Voya Financial honors Encinitas teachers with $2,000 Voya Unsung Heroes grant for innovative teaching program

The Ocean Knoll Elementary School team that won the recent grant from the Voya Unsung Heroes program.

Since 1996, the Voya Unsung Heroes program has awarded more than $5 million to help the nation’s educators turn innovative teaching ideas into reality.

Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), a leading provider of retirement plans for educators, announced recently that Julie Kusiak, Heather Papandrea, Stephanie Parisi, and Brittany Pierson, a group of teachers at Ocean Knoll Elementary School in Encinitas, have received a $2,000 grant as part of the company’s 2019 Unsung Heroes awards program.

Through the Voya Unsung Heroes program, Voya Financial awards grants to K-12 educators nationwide to honor their innovative teaching methods, creative educational projects and their ability to positively influence the children they teach.

“Voya handed out its first Unsung Heroes award more than two decades ago as a way to demonstrate its commitment to serving the education community, which is an important customer group for our Retirement business,” said Heather Lavallee, president of Tax-Exempt Markets for Voya’s Retirement business. “After awarding over $5 million in grants, the program continues to be a catalyst for innovative learning. It provides educators with an opportunity to make an impact in their community, inspire their students and be recognized for their creative teaching ideas. We’re honored to help Julie Kusiak, Heather Papandrea, Stephanie Parisi, and Brittany Pierson go above and beyond to prepare our leaders of tomorrow for their own successful futures.”

This team’s innovative idea, “First Grade Farmer’s Market,” focuses on teaching first graders basic economical principals and financial literacy by having them crate their own fully functional farmer’s market. The student’s will conduct polls, market research, procure raw materials and manufacture their own stands and goods. Profit and loss will be calculated and any and all profits will be donated. The program is designed to illustrate the fundamental nature of a free market and the power of the individual choice due to scarcity. The hands-on and robust application will allow the students a solid framework of economics on which they can build upon in the future.

Selected from a group of more than 650 applicants, the group is among 100 winners across the country who will receive this award to help fund and bring their program to life. In addition, they will now compete with other finalists for one of the top three prizes — an additional $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000 from Voya Financial.

To learn more about this year’s winning projects, as well as those from previous years, visit Unsung Heroes ( Applications for the 2020 Voya Unsung Heroes awards are currently being accepted through the website until April 30, 2020.

Unsung Heroes is part of Voya Foundation’s signature program, Voya Teacher Voices. Voya Teacher Voices focuses on empowering teachers to become leaders by promoting the teaching career, recognizing high-achieving accomplishments, providing training opportunities and offering financial support to achieve their goals.