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Cranston Teacher an "Unsung Hero"

Dawn Giarrusso of Western Hills Middle School is just one of 100 winners across the country in the ING Unsung Heroes Awards Program.

Cranston Teacher an "Unsung Hero"

Dawn Giarrusso of and a team of her fellow educators are going back to school $2,000 richer.

Giarrusso is one of just 100 people named an "Unsung Hero" by ING in the financial institution's annual Unsung Heroes Grant program.

The program honors teachers and educators who have made "a significant impact on their students and the educational experience in the classroom."

In Giarrusso's case, the innovative program is about eliminating school violence and bullying. She and her team's winning program, "Rachel's Challenge," "focuses on random acts of kindness and eliminating school violence and bullying," according to a release.

Rachel Scott was the first person killed during the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. 

Rachel's Challenge "exists to inspire, equip and empower every student to create a permanent, positive culture change in their school and community by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion," the release stated.

The goal of the project is to create a safer environment for all students by delivering proactive antidotes against school violence and bullying. The program improves academic achievement by engaging students and parents in the learning process and students will participate in anti-bullying skits, community service projects and will work on creating a “chain reaction,” a chain made from paper links, highlighting student achievements. This program will also inform parents of ways to identify students who are being bullied and educate them on how to effectively handle these issues. Giarrusso and her team believe all students will benefit from this project.

“ING is proud of the hard work and dedication of all of our nation’s teachers,” said Maliz Beams, CEO of ING U.S. Retirement Services. “It is a privilege to invest in the innovative ideas of educators across the United States who are preparing our children for the future. We hope the additional funds Dawn Giarrusso, John Macera, Leslie LeFebvre, Michael Waterman, Kevin Denneny, Anthony Corrente, Thomas Barbieri, Joseph Rotz, and Michael Crudale are awarded through ING Unsung Heroes will help sustain their program and continue to make an impact on the children in their community.”

The 2012 ING Unsung Heroes winners were selected from a group of more than 1,300 applications. To learn more about this year’s winning projects, as well as those from previous years, visit the ING Unsung Heroes website (unsungheroes.com). More information about the program can also be found on the ING Unsung Heroes Facebook page (facebook.com/unsungheroesgrant) where people can like and share the page to encourage more educators to apply. Applications for the 2013 ING Unsung Heroes awards are available on the website.

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