Mini Grants are Back this School Year!

Do you have a unique and interesting idea to help students and families? WSSWA members are eligible to apply for a mini-grant of up to $500 to help fund their novel ideas!

Wisconsin School Social Work Association is interested in supporting our members. We have mini-grants available to help our members try a new initiative or innovative idea in through their school social work practice. Grant money should be used to directly impact or benefit students and/or family needs. Applicants may request any amount up to $500.


  1. Only WSSWA members are eligible to apply
  2. Grant monies should be used during the 2022-2023 school year
  3. Grant recipients must submit a brief end of the year report on the impact of their project.
  4. Applicant must be working as a School Social Worker in the State of Wisconsin.
  5. Project must directly impact students and family needs. 

Applications for the 2022-2023 school year will be open in February 2023! 

Email to learn more.

Previous Mini-Grant Recipients

2019 Mini-Grant Recipient

Corrie Warning - Milwaukee Public Schools

Healthy Dating Youth Summit - $500

Students will learn about the qualities of healthy relationships, warning-signs that a relationship is unhealthy, and practical tools young people can use to stay healthy for themselves. School staff who accompany students will engage in a separate training explore similar topics and in addition, will examine effective ways to respond to teen-dating violence and/or other behaviors that negatively impact student social emotional learning and well-being. Summit presenters include staff from Milwaukee Public Schools, Sojourner, and Wraparound Milwaukee.  

2018 Mini-Grant Recipients

Shannon Sexton - Marinette School District

Sensory Room - $250

Shannon will use the grant to support the addition of a sensory room for special education students and students with IEP's and 504's in her middle school. This room will provide multiple sensory toys, furniture, and objects needed to regulate students who need a break from the classroom. At this time, when students need a sensory break, they take walks or use PE equipment.  This room would provide a supervised, stable, and consistent place for students to decompress with actual sensory equipment rather than makeshift sensory toys.

Katrina Swanson- Washington Heights School District

Mindfulness - $250

Katrina will use her grant money to implement a mindfulness/meditation/yoga curriculum in her district. Katrina is a long-time practitioner of mindfulness, yoga, and meditation and is very aware of how these practices can calm the mind and body. She plans to turn her elementary school offices into meditation rooms and will use the funds to purchase meditation cushions, yoga mats, and other items that will help create a calming space

Margaret Danielson - Parkview School District

FearlesslyKIND Classroom Curriculum - $375

Margaret has requested funding to purchase a curriculum called FearlesslyKIND to be used with students in her district. Margaret works in a rural community that has limited access to mental health resources for her students and families.  This year, Parkview School District hired Margaret, their first ever school social worker, and charged her with running groups and supporting the mental health needs of the students in her district. She will be using this curriculum as one method to addressing the needs of her students.  

Ashlee Karpinsky - Wausau School District

Positive attendance promotion - $250

Ashlee intends to use this grant to helping to improve the attendance at her two elementary schools. She plans on purchasing alarm clocks for students who have emerging attendance needs or who have met the criteria for an attendance conference. She also plans on using the grant to create an incentive program that would include competitions and for incentives for students and families that have increased attendance.

Meghan Eisenbraun - School District of Ladysmith

Parent Advisory Committee Initiatives - $250

Megan will using her grant money to support the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) within her district. This is a new collaborative effort between our elementary school, parent volunteers, and community stakeholders. Their goal is to provide support and resources to families on parenting and school related issues while increasing family engagement in the educational experience for their children. They have outlined a number of ways in which they will increase parent engagement within their district including creating a “Parent’s Cafe,  sponsoring Family Nights, and creating a “Parents University” and creating a family resource library.


Thank you for awarding me the 2018/19 mini-grant, to bring mindfulness into my school community.

With the award I was able to purchase 10 yoga mats, 6 meditation cushions, and a set of flameless candles from Amazon. I turned my 4K-2 grade office into a “zen den.” 

Recently, I did a meditation and yoga session with three students, as a test pilot (pictures below). It was a major success! The kids loved it so much, and hung in for the entire 20 minutes! Well, except when all three had to take a potty break in the middle of class because I forgot to have them go before, oops! Otherwise, they were really into it, and did especially well during “calm time” aka Shavasana, or lying down meditation. My favorite line from class was when I asked them what yoga is and one kid said, “it’s like being a slow ninja.”

This summer I am participating in the Breathe 4 Change yoga and SEL*F training. I plan on using the supplies I purchased to implement more yoga and meditation in my district. I hope to partner with 4K on a curriculum we’ll call, “slow ninjas.”

Thank you so much for the amazing opportunity! I am humbled to be an award recipient my first year of social work. I hope you enjoy the pictures. 

Thank you,

Kat Swanson

Good Afternoon, 

I just wanted to send out an update on the Sensory Room that you all helped create by granting me the mini grant in the fall of 2018. Since December 2018 there has been 137 recorded visits to the sensory room by 52 students who have a IEP or 504. In February and March, the Sensory Area was seeing daily use. In April & May, 3 or 4 students a week used the space to deal with capacity issues.

Of those who did not have a IEP or 504, there was an additional 159 visits by 67 students totaling 296 visits by 109 students in total. The creation of the room has been popular and has made a impact on our population here. They always know they have a safe place to go where they can de-escalate and regulate. We are looking forward to expanding it in the future and creating a larger space for more students to use. 

I just wanted to thank you all again for helping start our new room. 


Shannon Sexton, MSSW, LSSW, APSW

School Social Worker

Marinette Middle School

School Social Worker of the Year Award

Carla Vorpahl, 2022 School Social Worker of the Year

Carla M. Vorpahl has devoted over 20 years of her career to serving students as a school social worker in the Sheboygan Area School District in southern Wisconsin. In this time, she has formed and championed diversity and inclusion initiatives, such as a Hmong girls’ student leadership group and the Harbor Program for students with mental health or special education needs. Carla has established a food pantry to serve her school community; was an important member of a collaborative team to bring free school-based mental health programs to Sheboygan; and has trained over 800 educators in trauma informed practices. Her accomplishments are many, but they are overshadowed by the impact she has on others. In the words of her school’s principal, “My confidence in Carla Vorpahl is unmatched as she moves people forward. She continually empowers those around her to work not only harder but smarter. I would follow her anywhere.” So should we all.

Tabatha Veum, 2021 School Social Worker of the Year

Here's what one of her colleagues said of her:

"Beyond her incredible service to the students, families, and staff in the School District of La Crosse, Tabatha is always providing a great service to the profession of School Social Work. She is very passionate about what School Social Work offers to the educational setting. The tirelessly advocates for an understanding of what School Social Work, how it differs from other student service professions, and for the need to have more School Social Work FTE. She advocates for the discontinuing of dual role positions and the discontinuation of moving School Social Work responsibilities to under-licensed positions labeled school-community liaisons, community social workers, and community service coordinators. Although it is a lot of extra time, work, and energy, Tabatha will always take a School Social Work intern. She is always encouraging students into the profession and works hard while they are with her to impart as much of knowledge and experience as she can, to set them up for success in their own positions after graduation."

Nichole Carlisle, 2020 School Social Worker of the Year

Nichole works at Kromrey Middle School in Middleton, advocating for systems change to increase culturally responsive & trauma-sensitive practices throughout multiple systems while acting as a role model in these practices. She has demonstrated this by taking an active role into bringing restorative justice work into our school. By using data and assessment numbers, she shares with the staff what the school can do to help improve the climate at our school. She goes above and beyond making connections between home and school and is an amazing liaison between the two or more environments. Nichole will not stop working until she knows that our most marginalized students are getting what they need to find success academically, socially and emotionally. 

Melanie Brick, 2019 School Social Worker of the Year

Melanie stands alone as the only social worker in the Unified School District of De Pere, yet has the drive, compassion and knowledge that is required of the very challenging role. She is a champion of mental health for students.  She tirelessly organizes resources and supports for families, yet still finds time to drive initiatives and make personal connections with students.

Ellen Higley, School Social Worker of the Year 2018

Ellen Higley has demonstrated excellence and leadership as a school social worker for the past 20 years in the Eau Claire School District.  Prior to her employment as a school social worker, Ellen has held numerous social services positions for shelters, treatment centers, and counseling agencies.  Throughout her career, Ellen has been a leader in development of programs and services that have impacted youth, schools, community and the profession. 

Jodi Guenther, School Social Worker of the Year 2017

Jodi has worked in the the Shawano School District since 1999.  She started at the high school, implementing the SADD program, a peer mediation program, and the district's Autism Behavioral Consultation Team.  She also co-collaborated on establishing the County's suicide prevention program known as ROADS.  She later worked at the elementary school level, taking on the role of PBS coach and district coach for trauma and mindfulness.  Jodi has also been on the County's Truancy Task Force and worked to implement Coordinated Care Wraparound Supports.  She also had a role in implementing a homeless shelter.  She currently serves as the middle school social worker.

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