Causeway Challenge

You don’t have to be a nonprofit or a foundation to make a difference. Causeway believes in equipping average citizens to solve problems they identify in their own communities. Through the Causeway Challenge, we look to the wisdom of the crowd to solve some of our city’s toughest challenges. Each Causeway Challenge is framed around a question. Community members apply with their idea, then a panel of community experts chooses several projects to receive grassroots funding and support from Causeway to implement a pilot version of their project. 

Meet the Winners

Parent Academy
Project Leaders: Latanya Mason, Debbie Kelley and Jennifer Gherke
Neighborhood/School: Barger Elementary

Research shows that when parents help a child with homework, they not only improve that child’s overall academic performance, but also the student's attitudes related to achievement. However, many times parents aren’t equipped with the tools they need to help their child with homework. Through introducing parents to educational games, apps, and accountability practices, this program will provide support and training for parents and guardians to assist their children with homework at Barger Academy.  

Parent Involvement 1:1
Project Leaders: Katie Neil, Kathy Cooley, and Erin Hayden
Neighborhood/School: Harrison Elementary

Through a 1:1 device program already in place, all 3rd graders at Harrison Elementary receive an iPad to use at school and home to increase learning opportunities. This team of teachers will offer training to parents so that they feel comfortable and competent with the devices that will be sent home with their child during the school year. The training will not only equip parents to help their children learn more at home, it will also offer direct access to the internet and online school resources to families that may not have had that point of connection in the past.

Project Leaders: Luronda Jennings and Jean-Marie Lawrence
Neighborhood/School: County Wide

Every parent wants his or her child to be able to learn in an environment that embraces their individual learning styles, and leads that child to a more confident, efficient and productive life. For parents of children with a disability, that kind of environment can be hard to find. Through Journey Educational Services, RightsNow is a series of interactive workshops that will help parents understand and navigate the complex systems and laws surrounding disability regulations in schools so that they can become more confident advocates for their children with disabilities.

Scholars of Tomorrow
Project Leaders: Melissa Jo Brassel and 22:6 Teen Moms Club
Neighborhood/School: County-Wide

Scholars of Tomorrow is a parent “boot camp” aiming to equip teen moms with practical strategies for jumpstarting their children’s education at home. This training program will equip a group of young moms to become more engaged in their child’s learning development, while also helping them connect as a partner with their child’s school. Through a series of interactive sessions, this group will cover topics such as early childhood development and education, literacy, school and teacher expectations, parent resources, and skills for effective parent-teacher communication.

Summer of the Lorax
Project Leader: Nicholas Goebeler
Neighborhood/School: Eastside Elementary + Ferger Place

The Ferger Place Neighborhood Association will connect with students and families at their neighborhood school, Eastside Elementary, through a reading program and community event based on Dr. Seuss’s book, The Lorax. Kindergarten families at East Side Elementary School will be given a personal copy of the book to read over the summer. In the fall, these families will celebrate their reading achievement through a neighborhood-wide party that brings the book to life through an outdoor showing of the movie and tree-planting activities to reinforce the book’s environmental themes.

Orchard Knob Middle School Back to School Bash
Project Leaders: Jennifer Whalen
Neighborhood/School: Orchard Knob

The Back to School Bash will bring together school staff, parents, students and community members to plan and host a back to school block party at Orchard Knob Middle School. In addition to providing school supplies and a chance to socialize, the party will help parents take ownership of their child’s education and open the door to longer lasting relationships between all members of the Highland Park community, including students, parents, community members and teachers.

Project leader: Gabriel Trujillo
Neighborhood/School: Orchard Knob Middle School

Amistad, which translates to “friendship” in Spanish, is a counseling program that will work to build mutual support among Latino male students at Orchard Knob Middle School who are facing acculturation issues. Through weekly counseling groups with students and monthly social gatherings with the students' parents, Amistad will promote trust and collaboration between school and home, while also providing support and resources for the success of these students while they are overcoming the barriers that come with adjusting to a new culture.

Books Over Dinner
Project Leader: Rebekah Griggs
Neighborhood/School: East Lake Elementary

Through hosting potluck dinner parties at the school, this group hopes to start a movement of parents reading aloud to their children every day for 20 minutes. Books Over Dinner will also create a welcoming environment at the school for many of East Lake’s Latino families (45% of their students) to boost the confidence of parents learning English and to teach the importance of reading aloud in their native language. Families will walk away with bilingual books and tools to help them create reading habits at home that will boost their students’ literacy levels and overall school performance.

Chattanooga School Guide
Project Leader: Katie Smith
Neighborhood/School: County Wide

Modeled after the Memphis School Guide, The Chattanooga School Guide will be a one-stop online resource to help families understand all of their options when deciding where to send their child to school. By pulling together important academic data, personal insights from teachers and students, and enrollment information, the Chattanooga School Guide hopes to paint a holistic picture of what makes a good school, and help local parents decide on the best fit for their kids.

It’s Friday Night, It’s Fun Night!
Project Leader: Joyce Hardaway
Neighborhood/School: Hardy Elementary + Glass Street

This group is re-imagining Friday nights as an opportunity to strengthen family bonds, engage parents and children together, and improve the community. Students and parents from Hardy Elementary and the surrounding neighborhood will come together for nights full of fun activities including student performances, board games, gardening, and exercises designed to promote parents and children learning together. Each week a free, healthy dinner partially sourced from the community garden will be served while parents receive educational strategies to help their children, reminding them that opportunities to learn can easily be found outside the classroom.

Kindergarten Readiness
Project Leaders: Becky Cox and Stacey Barton
Neighborhood/School: Red Bank School District

Led by two kindergarten teachers who understand that the earliest years of childhood education are critical for later success, this program focuses on successfully preparing children ages 3-5 for kindergarten at Red Bank Elementary. Kindergarten Readiness will reach out to parents in the Red Bank school zone through a text messaging subscription that offers practical tips to help parents prepare their children for school through everyday activities. They will also hold inviting and accessible monthly meetings to strengthen relationships between parents and the school.

Cultivating the Essential Spark
Project Leaders: Mia Hansford
Neighborhood/School: Ridgedale

Parents and Pre-K students in the Glass Street area will have the opportunity to gather at the Blooming Pot Daycare one night a week after school and work in August/September to engage in a series arts and culture workshops. Taught by members of Barking Legs Theatre’s Full Circle Teaching Artists program, the workshops will providing fun opportunities for parents and children to create and problem-solve together, sowing seeds to create more arts education opportunities for our community.


Meet the Judges.


Kendi Anderson
Education Reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press


Cordell Carter
CEO of Tech Town


Allen Coffman
Pediatrician and founder of Pediatric Health Improvement Coalition


Elizabeth Crews
Executive Director of UnifiEd


Wendy Jung
Principal of Harrison Elementary


Alexis (AJ) Willis
Social Entrepreneur, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Business Support for LAUNCH & The Company Lab


Read about our past Challenge Winners.



What if I need help with my application?
In addition to the office hours mentioned above, applicants are always welcome to email us with questions at or call us at (423) 521-5554. If you do not have access to the internet, or the online application makes you uncomfortable in any way, please stop by our workspace and we will assist you. Si te gustaría solicitar en español, por favor, envíenos un correo a

Can ONLY parents apply for this Causeway Challenge?
Nope. We would love to see applications from students, teachers, and community members, so long as those applications include an idea about getting parent or guardians involved in public education. 

Can businesses apply for the Causeway Challenge?
In an effort to build up new community leaders, applications are open to individuals and groups. If the individual project leader(s) happen to own or work for or with an organization or business they would like to get involved, we think that is great, too.

If I'm an individual who wins the Causeway Challenge funding, do I have to pay taxes on it?
We cannot give you personal tax advice, so we recommend you consult with your accountant about how this might work with your particular circumstances. If this is a concern for you, we are open to you finding a nonprofit like a neighborhood association or a traditional charity to partner with to manage the funds. We can also help you identify an organization that might be a good fit.

Are there certain things you will and won't fund?
While we hope to leave things broadly open to your imagination, here are some examples that may give you insight into what we're looking for in an application's budget. Eligible expenses might include things like permits, rentals, supplies, some marketing expenses, limited stipend for effort committed to the project. Non-eligible expenses include personal capital expenditures (like buying yourself a fancy camera), and deficits or expenses incurred prior to the project implementation period, projects or events that have already taken place, purchase of awards or cash prizes, projects planned primarily for fundraising purposes, or applications that are simply asking for monetary support of a larger fundraising campaign (i.e. sponsorship requests).