student reading a book with a little girl at school library

Current Awards

A planning grant has been created in the amount of $1,000 for principal investigators to develop and create a prospectus for new projects. The new projects would be competitive for the Nina B. Hollis Research Impact Award (NBHRIA).  Proposed projects may vary in scope, with larger-scale projects funded at a maximum level of $10,000 per fiscal year, renewable annually for up to three years total funding.

The purpose of the Nina B. Hollis Institute Mini Grant ($1,500) is to provide funding for small-scale projects that support the mission of the Institute. Mini-grant funding (up to $1,500, annually for up to two years) may be used to support special projects that support learning for all students.

Past Awards

Supporting Early Biliteracy Instruction for all learners  

Project VIBE is a research study to describe and support Volusia County Schools’ (VCS) first implementation of bilingual education, an English-Spanish 50/50 Dual language (DL) program. Its priority is to provide professional development to new DL teachers to become better-qualified teachers that can plan collaboratively to implement the instructional model, use assessment to monitor language growth, develop knowledge of early literacy opportunities for DL students and promote equitable, welcoming, and safe environments for their students. In addition, the project seeks to support the engagement of DL parents, families, and the local community as well as mentor Stetson’s pre-service teachers through the ESOL Endorsement. Data will be collected at multiple points to describe variables of DL program implementation. Results will inform next phases of the project and will be disseminated to local, state, and national scholarly venues. Equitable education of English Learners (ELs) with the Nina B. Hollis Institute for Educational Reform as Project VIBE seeks to positively impact Volusia County Schools; efforts through collaborative partnership.

The 2015 USDA Farm-to-School Census recorded 7,101 school gardens in school districts across the United States, up from 2,401 recorded in 2013. School gardens have been shown to increase physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption, improve student attitudes towards school, decrease problematic behaviors or behaviors associated with attention deficit disorder, and effectively engage students of diverse backgrounds and learning styles. Despite these benefits, many traditionally prepared classroom teachers are not equipped with the skills necessary to successfully integrate garden-based learning into their pedagogy. The McInnis Garden-Based Learning Project intends to address the gap between the national enthusiasm for school gardens, and the lack of garden-based pedagogy in elementary teacher preparation programs. As a Title I school with a predominantly Hispanic student population, McInnis provides the ideal site to fulfill the Nina B. Hollis Institute’s mission of addressing systemic barriers to educational achievement in innovative ways.​

Dr. Steven Smallpage

The goal is to have a robust pre-college, week-long summer camp (ideally, more than once a summer) where all students, regardless of their backgrounds and ability to pay, will learn about the practical side of politics: the importance of polling public opinion in a democracy, the scientific ways in which polls are conducted, how to avoid the potential pitfalls of misinformation, and gaining hands-on experience doing a political poll of their own. Students should leave the summer camp with a new appreciation for how difficult, though not impossible with the right knowledge and skill sets, change in political life (particularly in Florida) can be. Moreover, ideally, the student-designed poll will be published by the Center for Public Opinion Research.


Dr. Tony Abbott, Dr. Primrose Cameron, Dr. Nicole Mottier

 Project Goals

Specifically focused on elevating equity in our community, this project builds on the mission of the Nina B. Hollis Institute by creating educational opportunities for middle through high school students through applied partnerships. Through a town and gown collaboration between Stetson University and Sisters Build Network for Girls, inc., and Man Up Mentoring, inc., we are working with students in the Spring Hill Community and greater West Volusia for two objectives. The first is to demonstrate to students, through an interactive project, the value of historical knowledge work—work that requires thoughtful collection and presentation of information—as self-affirming and remunerative labor. The second is to elevate the contributions of local equity and justice leaders (Local Legends) through the production of public history media. Through this project middle through high school participants will develop skills in intergenerational collaboration and writing with revision, and further, they will come to understand knowledge work as a potential career trajectory. The artifacts of their work will appear on the Local Legends online dashboard (hosted by the Department of Environmental Science) and support their professional development as they emerge from secondary, and perhaps post-secondary, education.  


Development of a Stetson Brain Fitness Academy for elderly individual and their caregivers

With the rising older adult population, prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias calls for increased treatment opportunities and community education and outreach. The Brain Fitness Academy (BFA) proposes an intergenerational and interdisciplinary program for older adults with dementia and their care partners. In the BFA, older adults will undergo twice weekly intervention and educational activities alongside current Stetson students, targeting cognitive, physical, and social wellbeing. Simultaneously, interested care partners will take part in support groups and educational activities led by current Counselor Education graduate students.  Outcomes including cognitive markers and quality of life outcomes for all participants will be assessed on a biannual basis. Given the strong emphasis in collaborative and intergenerational, nontraditional learning, the proposed program coincides well with the Hollis Impact Grant’s objectives and provides a unique opportunity for Stetson’s campus.

Teaching Self-Advocacy and Life Skills to Adolescents Who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Adolescence is difficult for most. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), over 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents and according to the American Society for Deaf Children, 88% of those parents will never learn sign language. This makes navigating the transition from adolescence to adulthood even more difficult for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The purpose of this grant is threefold. First, we would like to pair mentors who are Deaf and hard of hearing with adolescents who are in the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. These mentorships would provide role models that will assist the mentee in envisioning an independent life and be there to answer questions that may not be readily available from the child’s family. Second, we would like to offer bi-monthly life skills and self-advocacy forums for the adolescent and his/her family. Deafness is not a condition that will resolve itself. For many, schools and families have advocated for the child’s needs and services. We plan to focus on the self-advocacy-transition skills needed for successful integration into adulthood. Third, we would like to operationalize the self-advocacy skills by providing community field trips where the adolescents can practice the skills taught.

A know-your-rights program from troubled youths

The Public Defender Office of the 12th Judicial Circuit (which includes Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto Counties) is partnering with the Social Justice Advocacy Concentration Program at Stetson University College of Law to design a Know Your Rights program for child clients between the ages of 12-19.  The juveniles in this group are all either on juvenile probation or in pretrial diversion programs.  By participating in these programs, the juveniles will receive community service hours and upon successful completion, they will have their cases dismissed by the Department of Juvenile Justice and avoid having to enter any type of plea. The Department of Juvenile Justice and the Teen Court Diversion Program have already approved our proposed project for community service hours. 

The program will teach children about their 4th & 5th Amendment rights under the United States Constitution and will make sure that they know how to safely exercise these rights without causing harm to themselves.  They will write essays reflecting upon how the constitutional rights of juveniles are different than the rights of adults and how the juvenile legal system impacts the lives of children labeled as “juvenile offenders”.  Our expected outcomes are that the children will leave with a better understanding of their 4th and 5th Amendment rights. Specifically, we want them to recognize what an interrogation is and when they should request counsel and/or remain silent.  In addition, we want the students to know when they should or should not consent to a search by law enforcement.

Certification and Symposium

SEEDs (Sustainable Equity Education Developments) for Justice aims to plant equity education “seeds” through inclusive storytelling and nurture gardens of transformation that advance justice through community-engaged education, with a particular focus on advancing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. SEEDs for Justice is rooted in a deep commitment to providing educational stakeholders (K-12 public schools, youth-centered nonprofit organizations, juvenile justice systems and institutions of higher education) with relevant, engaging, and impactful learning about the civil rights movement and Artivism (art and social justice activism). This SEEDs for Justice project will focus on the creation of a documentary featuring diverse voices of human and civil rights activists (then and now) in juxtaposition with highlighting Artivism projects across the United States. The documentary will intentionally weave together oral history and digital storytelling on Artivism including narration and visual imagery, and it will include an accompanying learning guide to educate and inspire students, K-12 and beyond!

Following the NSF grant funded Student-Adaptive Pedagogy project, the Volusia County Schools Early Elementary Math Professional Development project is designed to foster kindergarten and first-grade teachers’ mathematical content knowledge for the benefit of their students’ learning. Recognizing the importance of early intervention, this project aims to promote teachers’ understanding of and attention to early number concepts with the goal of bolstering students’ conceptual understandings of number, thus avoiding the need to later “fill in the gaps.” Through content specific professional development, classroom observations, and deliberately designed instructional coaching, this project hopes to create a system of change through innovative pedagogical practices, aligning with the Nina B. Hollis Institute’s mission of addressing barriers to improve educational outcomes.

The Stetson Brain Bee aims to promote student learning about the brain and increase engagement with the field of neuroscience to inspire students (teens 13-19) of all backgrounds to pursue careers in this field. ​

We hope to make and strengthen our connections with local high schools, starting in West Volusia, to promote greater interest in Stetson University. This year, we are working with administrators and teachers from two schools, University High School and Deltona High School, from Volusia County School District to recruit participants. Next year, we hope to reach an even greater number of high schools within the district. ​

We are trying to become affiliated with the International Brain Bee (IBB). The IBB is a non-profit educational organization, which formally links efforts at the local, national, and international levels to build the Brain Bee brand as a globally connected initiative. Once we are so affiliated, the winner of our Local Brain Bee would then be eligible to move onto the National Brain Bee. Every year National Brain Bees from around the world send one representative to compete at the International Brain Bee world championship.

To start bringing science back to St. Pete, in 2021 we obtained many previously used science exhibits from a museum in Illinois. Some of these exhibits will help students learn about renewable energy, our solar system, technology, and many other scientific concepts. While this is a great start, these exhibits need refurbishment and many upgrades. Our initial exhibit group for the Discovery Center is titled Exploring the Solar System. This exhibit would focus on the solar system itself, the upcoming Artemis missions to return to the Moon and put humans on Mars, the planned permanent stations on and orbiting the Moon as well as the possibilities for the future. There are three exhibits that we purchased from Orpheum, a children's museum in Illinois that closed its doors last year, which require refurbishing.

Faculty and Program List

  • Raisa Ankeny – Volusia Implements Bilingual Education (VIBE). A pilot collaborative bi-lingual program in local elementary schools.
  • Kathy Piechura-Couture – Learning Incredible Skills For Everyday Activities (LIFE). Teaching adolescents who are deaf or hard of hearing self-advocacy skills allows them to transition to adulthood.
  • Sarah Garcia – Stetson Brain Fitness Academy. A Stetson Brain Fitness Academy for elderly individuals and their caregivers.
  • Rajni Shankar-Brown – SEEDs for Justice! A human and civil rights documentary project.
  • Amy Smith – Volusia County Schools Early Education Math Professional Development. A project that aims to promote teachers’ understanding of and attention to early number concepts to encourage students’ understanding of numbers.
  • Professor Judith Scully – Know Your Rights for Teens. A know-your-rights program for troubled youths.
  • Tony Abbott – Engaging Middle through High School Students to Author Narratives of Empowerment. A project formed to demonstrate the importance of maintaining a collection of historical knowledge work of local equity and justice leaders.
  • Steven Smallpage – Stetson Political Polling Pre-College Summer Camp. A project designed to educate high school students on the importance of polling, how to conduct their own political poll, and increase the literacy and awareness of those in underserved communities.