Thornton’s Nicolet College class assignment will turn into new basketball courts in Laona


What started out as a Nicolet College class assignment for student Mary Thornton last spring will turn into several new basketball courts in the town of Laona next summer.

Thornton was tasked with writing a grant proposal for the class project. It wasn’t required that students actually submit the application.

“But I figured, if I’m going to write this, let’s go for it and make it real,” said Thornton, who graduated this December with her two-year associate’s degree in Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) counseling.

She started the project by searching the internet for grant opportunities and came across Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation. The organization’s Toolbox for Education grants seemed to be a solid fit.

Thornton completed the assignment, submitted the grant application, and a few months later learned that her proposal was accepted and funded to the tune of $3,970.

“I was absolutely ecstatic,” Thornton said. “You never really know with things like this and I was thrilled to learn our grant application was approved.”

She first showed the approval letter to her AODA instructor, Tekia Longstreet. The two then made a b-line to the dean’s office to share the good news.

“Our goal is to give students the skills they’ll need and will apply in the real world,” said Candy Dailey, dean of Health Occupations at Nicolet. “Mary did a fantastic job of doing exactly that. She took what she learned and had the vision to apply that knowledge in a way that will benefit her community. In my mind that’s just fantastic.”

Work will begin this spring that will turn a set of old tennis courts that for years have suffered the ravages of time and will turn the area into three new basketball courts. A unique aspect of the three courts is that each will be for different ages, one with shorter hoops for youngsters, another with a little taller hoops, and the third with the standard 10-foot baskets.

“It’s important that young people have something constructive to do with their energy,” said Thornton, who works in Forest County as an AmeriCorp recovery coach and prevention specialist. “Sometimes in rural communities there’s not a lot for young people to do and this opens the door for them to turn to alcohol and drugs. I wanted to create an alternative to that, something that can give people a heathy connection to their community.”

The project is expected to be completed this summer through a partnership between the Laona Quarterback Club, the Laona School District, and the town of Laona.

And what grade did Thornton get on her grant writing assignment.

“It was an A.”