SWEETWATER, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A group in Sweetwater which helps bring innovative ways of learning to the low-income district has recently been hit with lower membership than normal. Now, the group says it’s working on a new way to help raise money for Sweetwater ISD but is concerned that it if others do not join, it could change the learning experience for students. 

Sensory activities, weighted vests, and fluorescent light covers are a few ways special education teacher Elizabeth Hammit is able to help calm down her students, so they are able to learn. If students are brought into the sensory room to calm down, they are typically able to sit in their general-education classrooms longer. This room was put into Eastridge Elementary School last year, but she said it was needed long before then. 

“They were overwhelmed. There were a lot of tantrums, crying,” Hammit listed. “When they come in here, they are learning self-regulation strategies that they can use here, but then they can also take those things home.” 

Because Sweetwater ISD did not have the budget for extra education needs like this one, the Sweetwater Education Foundation stepped in to help. 

“We needed it. So, I would have had to pay out of my own pocket to help these kids,” explained Hammit. 

This group did the same for the high school’s agriculture department, giving them the funding needed for a sensory garden. Agriculture teacher, Carley Casbeer told KTAB/KRBC, with those funds, the garden made the students excited about learning. 

“My favorite thing when I teach, is to have hands-on activities,” Casbeer detailed. “In the morning, when they come in or that afternoon, they are super, super excited to come out here, and they just can’t wait. I’m like, ‘y’all got to calm down a second, we’ll get out there in a minute.'” 

A Sweetwater ISD student, Taylor Reed, said, “Usually it’s mostly just taking notes and taking tests, and taking notes, and taking tests, and so this just give us a different experience.”

The Sweetwater Education Foundation was formed in 2020 to help fill in the gaps where teachers usually have to pay out of pocket. 

“The Sweetwater Education Foundation has given $150,000 back into our schools,” said Becca Locke, a member of the foundation. 

The Sweetwater Education Foundation has even reportedly given $100,000 towards new band uniforms for the district. 

This money is typically raised by hosting a casino night fundraiser, but with fewer members than usual this year, they had to shift to a raffle instead. 

“If we were to dwindle and it were to go away, these teachers lose that funding. These students lose those opportunities,” Locke warned.

Member Dustanna Spencer told KTAB/KRBC they would hit the district in other ways, as well. 

“It helps us keep a competitive edge along with the other smaller school districts that have a little bit better funding,” added Spencer. 

Despite these lower numbers, the members said they are hopeful this raffle can still raise enough money to help the district get new learning resources.  

The Sweetwater Education Foundation said it is keeping the fundraiser casino-themed with a raffle giveaway for an all-inclusive trip to Las Vegas. The raffle is open for anyone, and tickets can be purchased by clicking here. The raffle is open until September 22.