SNU Honors Students Secure Grant

Thanks to the efforts of three SNU honors students, Council Grove Elementary students will have the opportunity to to enjoy a new recreational area within the school’s playground this semester. Through the funding provided by Lowe’s Toolbox for Education, students Nathan Cummings, Patrick Kitzel, and Caleb Merriott were able to help create a more safe, innovative space for students at Council Grove to develop motor and critical thinking skills while enjoying physical exercise in an outdoor environment.

Council Grove Elementary received a $3,500 grant through Lowe’s Toolbox for Education to improve the school’s existing playground through the addition of a concrete chessboard, and other concrete areas devoted to various forms of kinesthetic exercise. Cummings, Kitzel, and Merriott co-authored the submission for the grant and were the student-force behind the “Chess for Children” project.

“The Honors Program students, under the direction of Dr. Gina Weaver Yount, have been able to use their talents to serve others,” said Dr. Melanie Kyzer. “They have successfully written a number of grants for schools in areas of our city that do not have safe places for children to play. They are truly fulfilling the mission of SNU.”

Prior to the completion of the “Chess for Children” project, the Council Grove Elementary playground consisted of a swingset, a jungle gym with three small slides, three benches, a gravel and dirt walking track, and a small empty field. Through the work of Cummings, Kitzel, Merriott, and additional volunteers, the school playground will soon include a concrete chessboard, with additional areas designated for hopscotch and foursquare.

When asked about the motivation behind improving the school’s existing playground, Caleb Merriott said, “We chose to do this project because the playground equipment at Council Grove is lacking. There aren't really any parks in the area for kids to play, so the time they get at recess is important. Kids just need to be kids sometimes and just play. But it is also important that they are able to stimulate their minds. Having a giant chess set where they can move around and think critically at the same time is a really good opportunity for these kids.”

"The SNU Honors Program has made a significant, positive impact on Council Grove Elementary School,” said Dr. Steve Betts. “Through their work securing grants such as this, the children at Council Grove have better equipment, safer facilities, and a more effective learning environment. Additionally, the SNU students advocate for and mentor the students at Council Grove."

This grant was obtained through an ongoing service project of the SNU Honors Program. Each year, freshman Honors students at Southern Nazarene University engage in service learning throughout their freshman year coursework at Council Grove Elementary, a local Title I school. Each SNU student mentors two Council Grove Elementary students over the course of a year, helping the students with reading or math. In the fall, as part of Honors Academic Writing, Honors students learn how to write grants, and then they apply for various grants on behalf of their adopted school.

Over the past four years of the grant project, SNU Honors students have had ten of their grants funded, winning approximately $33,000.

The Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant program is devoted to helping educators, parents, and students improve their communities by providing aid for projects devoted related to STEM programs, technological upgrades, and facility or safety improvements.

Founded in 1899, Southern Nazarene University is a private, Christian, liberal arts university located in Bethany, Oklahoma and serving students in Tulsa as well as other locations throughout the state. SNU offers course for both traditional students and working adults, including multiple master’s degree programs.

For more information about the SNU Honors Program, contact Dr. Gina Weaver ( For more information on Southern Nazarene University, visit or call 1-800-648-9899.

Southern Nazarene University’s mission: To make Christlike disciples through higher education in Christ-centered community.