Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Person of the Week

Kapadia Invites Guilford to Buzz In at GFFE’s Virtual Trivia Bee


Guilford Fund for Education (GFFE) Chair Veena Kapadia is helping to build the buzz for GFFE’s Virtual Trivia Bee, coming to phones and screens across town Sunday, March 7 at 4 p.m. Families can register now at GFFE’s website, to join the live Zoom event emceed by State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-98). Players will buzz in with their answers using a kid-friendly app, Kahoot! Photo courtesy of Veena Kapadia

Guilford Fund for Education (GFFE) Chair Veena Kapadia is helping to build the buzz for GFFE’s Virtual Trivia Bee, coming to phones and screens across town Sunday, March 7 at 4 p.m. Families can register now at GFFE’s website, to join the live Zoom event emceed by State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-98). Players will buzz in with their answers using a kid-friendly app, Kahoot! (Photo courtesy of Veena Kapadia )


Veena Kapadia is helping to build the buzz about Guilford Fund for Education (GFFE) Virtual Trivia Bee, coming to phones and screens across town Sunday, March 7 at 4 p.m. Families can register now at GFFE’s website, to join the live Zoom event emceed by State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-98). Players will buzz in with their answers using a kid-friendly app, Kahoot!

With the annual GFFE Adult Spelling Bee forced to sit out second year in a row due to COVID, GFFE made the call last fall to develop a virtual trivia bee to take place around the time of the traditional spelling bee, usually held in March. From 2006 through 2019, the GFFE Adult Spelling Bee has annually drawn dozens of teams and upwards of 200 community members out for a great night of fun and fundraising at Guilford High School (GHS).

“We had a feeling that we weren’t going to be able to gather for an event this year, so we actually spent the summer debating alternatives and kind of waiting anxiously to see what life was going to look like,” says Veena, GFFE board chair. “And in the fall, it was pretty clear we wouldn’t be able to have the spelling bee. That sparked this idea – if we can’t hold a spelling bee in person, what tools are available to do something virtually?”

The virtual trivia bee concept earns top grades from the board for several reasons. Beyond offering a way for the community to come together for a fun, fundraising event at a safe social distance, one of the things they realized is that, in recent years, “more kids have been participating” in GFFE bees, says Veena.

“And we know the kids are using Kahoot! in school and love it, and are completely familiar with it,” she says about the app, which supports online quiz games for group play. “So we thought that could be how we could do this for families and get our community together and make it something fun.”

When the virtual Trivia Bee goes live on March 7, Veena and the GFFE board would love to see some spirited trivia bee contestants signing on Zoom event decked out in a honey of a costume or other bee-autifiul team gear, she adds.

Chalking up plans for the trivia bee wasn’t all the GFFE board was thinking about last summer, says Veena.

“One of the amazing things our board came up with in the summer was this small grants idea, and it turned into our COVID Response Initiative,” she explains.

With COVID protocols leading Guilford Public Schools (GPS) to turn to hybrid learning (part in-person, part online) when reopening in the fall, GFFE devised a plan to offer microgrants with its COVID Response Initiative. The small grants helped Guilford educators access extra tools (math manipulatives, access to eBooks, equipment, etc.) to aid in efforts to meet social, emotional, or academic needs of students using hybrid learning.

GFFE invited teachers, as individuals or as teaching teams, to submit applications for COVID Response Initiative grants (up to $500 per teacher applicant) and set a goal of reviewing and providing funding within 10 days of receiving applications. By November 2020, 16 microgrants, totaling nearly $10,000, had been distributed.

The initiative underscores the supportive response GFFE has always sought to lend to Guilford’s educational opportunities.

“Our mission is really focused on new ideas and creative ways to learn,” says Veena.

Since 2006, GFFE’s traditional grant program has been providing grants to expand educational experiences in town.

“With our traditional grants, we can help advance some of the creativity teaches are so inclined to bring into their classrooms,” says Veena. “For example, a world language teacher at Melissa Jones, she is bringing flamenco into her classroom through a GFFE grant. It’s a virtual event that touches not only on world language experience, but of cultural awareness our children so need, and STEM through rhythm, and physical activity with dance and motion and music. So it really touches on a lot of aspects.”

The second grade curricular program spans two months and includes a visiting flamenco teacher/artist Rebecca Tomás, leading a virtual dance work shop for students.

Another GFFE grant provided in the fall supports GHS English teacher Heather Bradley’s work to bring the national conversation on equality and justice to freshmen by introducing Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy into the curriculum and bringing an experienced speaker to speak with students. Bradley’s grant also strengthens a district goal outlined by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Freeman to increase dialogue about racism and further develop culturally inclusive instruction for Guilford students.

“We’re helping to give freshmen the opportunity to engage with the Equal Justice Initiative [and] to have conversations around some of the tough issues that are happening around us,” says Veena. “We’re also helping to introduce a [Baldwin] book club, with great new books that deal with not being the norm in the class or society, and just knowing what that feels like. Just having kids talk about difference and embrace differences.”

Baldwin Middle School’s literacy coach, Ashley Huckabone, was awarded a fall 2020 GFFE grant in literature for the book club program.

Awarding three traditional grants and the COVID Response Initiative grants during fall 2020 “set the bar high for us at the beginning of the year,” Veena adds. “In the fall, through small grants and three other large grants, we gave about $19,000 in grant funding. So we are setting the bar to be able to do that again—we still have half the academic year left.”

Making grants to fund initiatives falling outside the GPS budget was a driving reason why a grass-roots group of citizens founded GFFE in 2006. GFEE’s mission also includes partnering with the district and community groups to foster excellence in instruction and inspire lifelong learning; promoting and supporting learning initiatives helping the town’s youth successfully integrate into adult society and working to build community-wide support and enthusiasm for education.

Through her own experience as a GPS student (GHS Class of 1996) as well as through her work with GFFE, Veena says she knows this is a community that cares about education.

“What I appreciate about Guilford is people are so generous. Through this experience, it’s become very clear that education is important to people in this town. It’s important to our community. It’s something that I appreciate from my education, and I want my kids to have that, too. It’s part of the reason why we moved here,” says Veena, who moved back to town in 2014 with her husband, Shane Zide, and their two children.

Their daughter Soraya is now a Guilford Lakes Elementary School 4th grader and their son Asher is now a 6th-grade student at Baldwin Middle School.

“Guilford is a great place to learn. Our kids are really lucky. I’m grateful that my kids have this opportunity and GFFE is in our community,” says Veena. “That’s partly why I wanted to be involved with GFFE, because of the focus on that element of excellence in education.”

Veena first learned about GFFE in 2017 from a couple of friends in the community who served on the GFFE board and thought she would be a great fit. She joined the board in December 2017.

“It really has been an exciting opportunity for me, because I’ve always enjoyed community and being involved in the community, and GFFE was the opportunity that I really was looking for to get involved in Guilford. Education is so important,” she says.

Veena co-chaired GFFE last year. She says GFFE’s board brings a deep bench of expertise in many areas to help the organization thrive.

“As chair of board, I sort have become the face, but behind me are educators and people with skill sets in finance areas and psychology and behavioral science, and all of these other aspects that are so important to making GFFE what it is. Honestly, it’s such a compilation of expertise,” says Veena.

With a degree in economics and international trade and finance, Veena’s expertise includes her work as a management consultant and, more recently, as the founder and director of non-profit Flore Foundation, which supports her belief that social impact businesses can provide innovative ways to address community challenges.

“It’s a small grant making organization that supports social enterprises empowering refugees,” says Veena. “And so part of that is looking at the power of reading and education. People are doing all sorts of wonderful things in that space.”

Veena says she’s always valued the gift and empowerment of reading and the impact of telling one’s story. One of her first volunteer efforts when she moved back to Guilford was assisting non-profit Read to Grow, based in Branford. As her kids were starting school, she got involved, working with Scanlon and others, with the full-day kindergarten movement. Veena thanks Scanlon for his continued support of GFFE and for signing on as trivia bee emcee.

“Sean will be our emcee for the evening. He was a huge hit at our last bee, and so we’re excited to be bringing him back,” says Veena.

She also wants to express the sincere thanks of the board to the many individual donors, organizations, companies and small businesses that support GFFE.

“We are so appreciative of our donors and sponsors, because we can’t do it without them,” says Veena. “Organizations like GFFE aren’t able to achieve their goals without donors and sponsors, and they are so important to make us a success.”

During these unprecedented times, GFFE also hopes the community will continue to support those businesses who support GFFE, she adds.

“As we started reaching out to sponsors for the trivia bee, we realized part of our effort here is to promote local business, because they have not only done so much for GFFE in the past, but they’re also going through a hard time now,” she says. “So through our prizes and recognizing sponsors, we hope to highlight all of these supporters that we have in our community.”

Families and community members can also support GFFE by signing up to join the virtual trivia bee. A team registration fee ($24.99) will add to GFFE’s fundraising efforts to continue to provide exceptional learning opportunities to Guilford students.

It’s also just a great way to bring the community together, Veena notes.

“The spelling bee has been such a great attraction for the community in past years, so we’re hoping this will also be something that can bring the community together,” she says. “I know one of the things I miss most with COVID is connecting with people. This is something my family’s anticipating and we look forward to seeing lots of families register.”

Pam Johnson covers news for Branford and North Branford for Zip06. Email Pam at

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