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Voya awards $140,000 in grants to honor educators with innovative teaching programs


Top three winning innovative teaching ideas explore urban farming techniques; living in outer space; and how physics can help local communities

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), a leading provider of retirement plans for educators, announced today the top three winners in the company’s annual Voya Unsung Heroes grant program, which recognizes and financially rewards innovative teaching programs.

The top three winners, chosen from 50 teams of overall winners who received $2,000 each, were awarded additional grants – $5,000 for third place, $10,000 for second place and $25,000 for first place. View how teachers responded when they learned they were a top three winner. Now in its 25th year, the Voya program has awarded more than $5.8 million in awards to educators across the United States.

The first-place winning teaching team, Nicole Bay and Christian Kollegger from the Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy in North Windham, Connecticut, received the top award of an additional $25,000. They will use the Voya award to help bring their innovative teaching idea, “Urban Farming for Food & STEM,” to life at the academy. Their program focuses on increasing student learning and achievement via a school-wide initiative which engages students in STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines in urban farming. Read their full program description.

Susan Nicholson-Dykstra from Broomfield High School in Broomfield, Colorado, won the second-place award of an additional $10,000. She will use the funds to support “Physics for Social Impact,” a concept that challenges students to use physics to develop products that will help specific groups in a local community, such as residents at local nursing homes. Read her full program description.

The third-place Unsung Heroes Award of an additional $5,000 was given to Kenneth Huff and Thomas Bird, teachers at Mill Middle School in Williamsville, New York. The Voya grant will support Huff and Bird’s innovative teaching idea, “Electrochemistry Investigators,” that will challenge students to investigate electro-chemistry and the role it plays in traveling to Mars and how astronauts will breathe and return to Earth if air and fuel supplies are depleted. Read their full program description.

“For 25 years, Voya has proudly supported the development of innovative teaching ideas like these,” said Angela Harrell, Voya’s chief diversity and corporate responsibility officer and president, Voya Foundation. “Faced with unprecedented challenges, inspirational teachers such as all of those who took part in this year’s Unsung Heroes program have set new standards for creativity in teaching that should serve as role models for everyone in education.”

To learn more about this year’s winning projects, as well as those from previous years, visit Unsung Heroes. Applications for the 2022 Voya Unsung Heroes awards are currently being accepted through the website until April 30, 2022.

Unsung Heroes is part of Voya Foundation’s signature program, Voya Teacher Voices. Voya Teacher Voices focuses on empowering teachers to become leaders by promoting the teaching career, recognizing high-achieving accomplishments, providing training opportunities and offering financial support to achieve their goals.

About Voya Foundation

Voya Foundation's mission is to improve the quality of life in communities where Voya Financial operates and its employees and customers live. Voya Foundation provides grants and establishes signature partnerships in the areas of financial literacy and children's education and fosters employee engagement to deepen our positive impact on the community. For more information, visit

About Voya Financial®

Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), provides health, wealth and investment solutions that enable its approximately 14.8 million individual, workplace and institutional clients to achieve their financial wellness goals with confidence. With a vision to be America’s Retirement Company®, Voya’s products, solutions and digital capabilities help create a better financial future for all. Voya is a Fortune 500 company that had $7.6 billion in revenue in 2020 and $721 billion in total assets under management and administration as of June 30, 2021. Certified as a “Great Place to Work” by the Great Place to Work® Institute, Voya is equally committed to conducting business in a way that is socially, environmentally, economically and ethically responsible. Voya has been recognized as a 2020 World’s Most Admired Company by Fortune magazine; one of the 2020 World’s Most Ethical Companies® by the Ethisphere Institute; as a member of the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index; and as a “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion” on the Disability Equality Index by Disability:IN. For more information, visit Follow Voya Financial on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @Voya.


Mary Beth Conklin
Voya Financial

Source: Voya Financial, Inc.

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