What better way to end the first full week of school, than by handing over dozens of new technology devices to a cheering student body?  It happened today, not once, but twice at two very deserving Hamilton County elementary schools.

Each received $50,000 worth of Chromebooks, described as fast new laptops designed for 21st Century learning.   Bess T. Shepherd Elementary was first to get the good news, that their grant request, submitted through the Public Education Foundation, was approved by the Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children.

Principal Valerie Brown said, "This is absolutely fantastic, our teachers and students have been working hard, and we're so proud this has come to fruition."

A few minutes later, East Lake Elementary shared in the celebration, also using their grant money to purchase Chromebooks.   Each school had to work hard for the money. It's not as simple as merely making a request.   They had to prove there was a plan in place, that would directly benefit students.  

Christa Payne of the PEF said, "It was really about connecting with the community, with students, parents, and business leaders. The teachers will be well trained on how to best integrate lesson plans on their Chromebooks."  

At Shepherd Elementary, a student leadership program has caught the eye of educators locally and nationally.   The "Leader in Me" program was available to only a few students in years past, but can now be expanded.   The results are reflected in student leaders like 5th grader Jalen Harris.  "I want to be a leader, not a follower," he said. "Last year a lot of students wanted in the leadership program, but we were only able to have a small number.  Now everybody can be trained to be a leader."

This is the fifth consecutive year local schools have benefited from the grants.   Educators say the technology helps level the playing field, in predominantly low income schools. In total, the Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children has given more than $750,000 to support elementary schools in Chattanooga, including Hillcrest, Hardy, Calvin Donaldson, and Rivermont.