Editor's note: A previous version of this story referred to the Humble ISD Education Foundation's Boots & Bling Gala as the Visions and Dreams Gala. The Visions and Dreams Gala is an older version of the event.

When Amy Walker first applied for an innovative education grant from the Humble ISD Education Foundation, she didn’t think she stood a chance of receiving the funds.

Walker—a health science teacher at Humble High School—was awarded the initial grant, and after eight years, she has received three grants totaling nearly $20,000.

“I asked for things like mannequins and hospital beds and all sorts of strange items that you probably wouldn't attribute to normal classroom,” Walker said. “I've been extremely blessed and lucky with the foundation.”

The Humble ISD Education Foundation was initially formed in 1999 to inspire innovation and enhance academic opportunities throughout Humble ISD with the goal of inspiring lifelong learning, said Jerri Monbaron, the nonprofit’s executive director.

In addition to the innovative education grants, which are awarded to teachers to fund creative projects and classroom initiatives, the foundation offers scholarships to students and teachers who are continuing their education.

Monbaron, who has worked with the foundation since its inception, said hearing stories like Walker’s is the reason she’s still working with the organization after more than two decades.

“People aren't always listening to you as a teacher,” Monbaron said. “I'm just really honored to be able to work with a foundation that asks our teachers, ‘What do you dream for your students?’ and then be able to go back and say, ‘Okay, let's get it done.’”

During the 2022-23 school year, the education foundation awarded nearly $350,000 in grants that funded 79 projects affecting every Humble ISD campus. Walker said that included an $8,650 grant she received to fund the creation of a simulated health care clinic that will provide hands-on learning opportunities for her students.

“[The grants] make you feel supported and like you can basically go do anything new and different in your classroom,” Walker said. “That's always an amazing feeling.”

Monbaron noted the education foundation hosts four major fundraising events throughout the school year that support the innovative education grant program, including a purse bingo event in August, a golf tournament in November, the Humble BBQ Cook-off and Rodeo in February, and the annual Boots & Bling Gala in April.

Additionally, Monbaron said individuals and businesses actively donate to the nonprofit throughout the year. Donations can be made through the organization’s website, but Monbaron said she enjoys when donors come in to their Humble office.

“For us, it's not a transactional process,” she said. “We want to get to know them, because every donor is different about what they're looking for out of that experience. We want to get to know what's important to them and why they wanted to support public education so we can match them with that opportunity.”

Reflecting on her time at the nonprofit, Monbaron said she still gets excited when she sees a teacher’s face light up upon learning their initiative is being funded.

“It's about making that teacher feel really special,” she said. “Here, 24 years later, there's still work to be done and our hearts are in it."