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LAWRENCEVILLE TEACHER WINS JUST DO IT TEACHERS' GRANT FROM NIKE, NFIE

 LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J., Nov. 23 ~PRNewswire~ -- Mary Jane Luerssen, a teacher at Lawrence High School, is one of 20 teachers across the country to receive a Just Do It Teachers' Grant from the National Foundation for the Improvement of Education (NFIE) and NIKE Inc. (NYSE: NKE; PSE), NIKE announced today. The grant of $6,900 will fund Luerssen's Exploring Women's Stories, Exploring Ourselves program, a stay-in-school initiative.
 Just Do It Teachers' Grants range from $5,000 to $25,000 over a two-year period, and are awarded to educators who design programs that motivate students to stay in school and achieve academic success. This year's grants, ranging from $3,000 to $18,000, are funding teachers in 17 states.
 Through the program, 11 young women at Lawrence High School have embarked on journeys, both personal and historic, that will lead them to a greater understanding of women's roles in society, and a greater understanding of themselves.
 Up to this point, the girls have faced the same types of problems that other students at risk of dropping out of school confront on a regular basis -- substance abuse, chronic truancy, academic difficulties, emotional difficulties, and other personal conflicts. The program will create an atmosphere of bonding where students share experiences and academic studies that relate to their own lives.
 Exploring Women's Stories, Exploring Ourselves weaves the historic and cultural study of women with students' personal concerns. "Academic study is used as a springboard for personal exploration. We hope to empower the students to exercise their intellectual and creative powers," Luerssen said.
 The academic part of the program covers the changing image and roles of women in our society and the personal experiences of many well-known women. For example, the students analyze the film "The Color Purple" and excerpts from Alice Walker's biography. They are coached by a local theater group to prepare them for a script reading of "Womanspeak." They watch the videos, "A Woman's Place" and "History of Women and the Family in America," and read about women who represent a variety of ethnic heritages.
 Later study units range from the cultural to the political. Students explore women's political history through the video "Women in American Life." Mayor Gloria Teti of Lawrence Township will speak to the class at a breakfast meeting about her personal experiences in politics. Students also explore how the media influences our views of women. They analyze excerpts of television shows that range from "I Love Lucy" to "A Different World." They'll also read Oprah Winfrey's biography. "By witnessing changes in the depiction of women in the media, we hope to increase their understanding of women's roles in the 1990s," Luerssen said.
 Students study their relationships with others -- especially the opposite sex -- and communication between the sexes. The year ends with a unit on traditional and nontraditional career paths. The class then completes a final project: a video expressing their own stories and the stories of their families. Final copies of the video will be presented to the students with certificates of achievement at a final meeting attended by students, staff and family members.
 Students also work closely with the school social worker who helps them identify certain behaviors they want to change. The students track their feelings and self-improvement progress daily in journals. Monday sessions with the social worker are devoted to discussing concerns and conflict-resolution skills.
 "This project is just one example of how educators are extensively involved in continuing to reform and update public schools," said Betty Kraemer, president of the New Jersey Education Association. "We know it will work in meeting students' needs.
 "Too often, women's experiences and contributions have been ignored by society. This project will give girls an increased sense of self-worth and potential."
 Prior to her position as a teacher at Lawrence High School, Luerssen worked as a student assistance counselor and a psychology teacher at other New Jersey high schools. A published poet, Luerssen's work has been featured in New York Quarterly, a literary magazine and she has served as a guest poet at a library program in Maplewood, N.J. She received a bachelor's degree in social studies from Trenton State College, a master's degree in special education, and has completed numerous advanced courses in writing short stories, poetry and plays. She is completing course-work in the Rutgers University program on alcohol counseling. Luerssen is a member of the National Education Association and the New Jersey Education Association.
 NFIE was created in 1969 by the National Education Association and is supported by Association members, foundations, corporations, and other individuals. The Foundation promotes excellence in teaching and learning by empowering educators to meet the educational needs of all students.
 The business-education partnership between NFIE and NIKE was forged with a multi-year $1 million contribution to NFIE from NIKE.
 "The teachers leading these programs are putting hope back into the lives of thousands of children, many of whom encounter obstacles to learning before they ever enter a classroom. These teachers are working to give all children a chance to be successful," said NFIE Executive Director Donna Rhodes.
 "Without support from NIKE, NFIE's drop out prevention efforts would be limited. And the number of students who drop out could easily exceed the 25 percent nationwide who leave school before graduation."
 NIKE is the world's leading manufacturer of athletic footwear, apparel, and accessories. The company devotes three-fourths of its philanthropic budget to inner-city youth programs that emphasize improving education.
 -0- 11~23~92
 ~NOTE TO EDITORS: Photo available upon request~
 ~CONTACT: Judy Hodgeson of NFIE, 202-822-7840; or Virginia Hensen of NIKE, 503-671-6453; or Mary Jane Luerssen of Lawrence High School, 609-530-8392~
 (NKE)


CO: NIKE Inc.; National Foundation for the Improvement of Education ST: New Jersey IN: SU:

LB-LM -- SE008 -- 0448 11~23~92 11:16 EST
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Date:Nov 23, 1992
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