PAOLA — DeAnna Morgan, an art teacher at Paola High School, has received a $500 grant through WGU Missouri’s “Fund My Classroom” initiative.

The funds will be used by Morgan to purchase art supplies that will enable high school students to partner with elementary students to paint a large mural at Sunflower Elementary School, according to a news release.

Morgan and her students believe giving back to the community is extremely important. The students in the Paola High School Art Club are teaming up with the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students who are part of Sunflower Elementary School’s Kids Connect Club — an after-school civic engagement club — to beautify their community with a “Come Grow with Us” mural on the retaining wall near the elementary school.

The high school students have created designs and met with the elementary students to discuss how they would like to complete the mural project. The mural will feature the words “Come Grow With Us,” and beautiful sunflowers that will be painted by all students, according to the release.

Morgan requested funds to purchase high-quality, exterior paint to ensure the mural will last for years to come, along with brushes, trays and drop cloths for the students to use to complete the project.

The innovative classroom project is one of 29 chosen by WGU Missouri to receive funding. The nonprofit university issued a call in March for K-12 teachers across the area to nominate proposed classroom projects for the opportunity to receive full or partial funding through its “Fund My Classroom” initiative. Morgan’s proposal was one of more than 100 nominations received. All grants were awarded during Teacher Appreciation Week in May, according to the release.

“We are happy we can bring so many of these innovative projects to life through our ‘Fund My Classroom’ initiative and give the impacted teachers something to look forward to in the midst of all the uncertainty COVID-19 is causing for schools across the region,” said Dr. Angie Besendorfer, Chancellor of WGU Missouri. “This initiative is an opportunity for WGU Missouri to celebrate teachers and is a great way to thank them for the lasting, positive impact they have on their students. We were excited to hear from so many great teachers with excellent ideas that will enhance learning both in and out of the classroom.”

Editor and Publisher Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or

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