Tift College of Education Alumna Receives $100,000 Grant in Farmers Insurance Dream Big Challenge


ATLANTA – Emily Max, an alumna of Mercer University's Tift College of Education, was recently named one of six educators nationally to receive a $100,000 grant from Farmers Insurance as part of its 2015 Dream Big Challenge.

Max, a 2013 graduate of Mercer's Master of Arts in Teaching program, is a kindergarten teacher at Fred Toomer Elementary School in Atlanta. She plans to use the grant money to build a playground that is accessible to students with special needs, a project that she began formulating in one of her classes at Mercer.

“Emily demonstrates compassion and passion in her life and in her teaching,” said Dr. Jon M. Saulson, assistant professor of education at Mercer. “Given free rein on a one-semester assignment and with some initial direction and support, she turned it into a three-year drive to improve the lives of others. She has especially sought to create wonderful opportunities for her students and particularly those with special needs.”

For this year's Dream Big Challenge, Farmers Insurance solicited proposals between February and July from teachers across the U.S. on what they would do with a $100,000 grant. 

Max was selected as one of 15 finalists. The finalists were divided evenly amongst three geographical regions – Western, Central and Eastern – and the top two in each region, according to an online vote, received grants.

“The Farmers Insurance Dream Big Challenge is a huge win for my students and Toomer Elementary School,” said Max. 

“I was fortunate to receive a thank you note from a former student on the Farmers Thank America's Teachers website, and I knew immediately that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to apply for the grant. Building this playground is a full-circle way for me to thank Dr. Saulson for being an inspirational educator, which is the spirit of the Thank America's Teachers campaign. I am delighted that my big dream is becoming a reality.”

About the Tift College of Education

Mercer University's Tift College of Education – with campuses in Macon, Atlanta and the University's three Regional Academic Centers – prepares more professional educators than any other private institution in Georgia. The College offers baccalaureate and graduate degrees, and is guided by the conceptual framework of the “Transforming Practitioner,” which supports those who aspire to grow professionally throughout their careers, while also seeking to transform the lives of students. education.mercer.edu.