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Webinar to replace spelling bee

The Suffolk Education Foundation cannot hold one of its popular fundraisers this year but has found a helpful alternative. 

Since 1993, the Suffolk Education Foundation has held various fundraisers to raise donations to give students and staff of Suffolk Public Schools annual scholarships and classroom grants. The foundation has returned almost $1 million to Suffolk Public Schools. 

This year, instead of the annual Grown-Up Spelling Bee fundraiser, parents and students can tune into a webinar. 

“The spelling bee was a fun thing that raised money for schools and promoted literacy,” said Bethanne Bradshaw with the Suffolk Education Foundation. “We felt that the webinar would be not as much of a fundraiser but a way to give back and meet families where they are at home.”

The “CAN WE TALK?” is a free weekly webinar with various sponsors that will discuss things everyone has faced during this pandemic. Each week at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, starting Feb. 23 and running through March 30, guests will discuss various topics.

“We all have been impacted in one way or another, and this is a way to bring people together over things that have changed in our lives,” said Bradshaw. “This is a chance to talk to others in the same boat and help people benefit from it.”

The first topic will be “Stress Less: Neighborhood Resources.” This episode will show local virtual events to participate in. Dr. Jennifer Brown from the Suffolk Library will talk about the library’s various programs and classes. Mike Frickanisce will discuss Suffolk Parks & Recreation’s multiple ways to get active and talk about the art gallery.

The second week will be “Combatting the “Covid 15”: Healthy Choices.” This segment will be presented by Optima Health & Preventive Services and Sentara Healthcare with health educator Dani Hill and registered dietitian Christina Troutner discussing stress eating, prolonged sitting and other hurdles to living healthy in quarantine. Students in the College & Career Academy at Pruden will do a healthy snack demo for folks to try at home in this special episode. 

“The cooking demo will be pre-recorded, but it will be a chance for parents to watch and keep students engaged during this time of virtual learning,” said Bradshaw. 

The following two sessions will tackle mental health. The first week in “Mindfulness & Self-Care: A Simple Approach to Improved Mental Well-Being,” Clair Norman, director of the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation, will provide a simple approach to improving mental well-being by exploring a present-focused lifestyle through real-life experiences. In the second week, Chiquita Merrill, manager of the School Intervention Program, will help parents learn the signs, symptoms and risk factors of mental health issues and how to get help for someone in distress in “How Are the Kids?: Youth Mental Health.”

The last two weeks will focus on money. The first week will advise those seeking their first job, a new job or wanting to start a business in “Now Hiring: Advice for Career Seekers.” A panel will speak, including Libby Westley from Christopher Newport University, Dan Curran from Chick-Fil-A Harbour View, Richard Chaing from Suffolk Executive Offices and Katie Burgus from YMCA of South Hampton Roads.

“Families have been impacted with reduced income and how to move forward,” said Bradshaw. “This one would also be good for high schoolers, too, as many of them are seeking their first job.”