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8th grader wins $10,000 grand prize in annual Duck Dive for Education drawing
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Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden fishes one lucky duck out of the lazy river filled with more than 7,800 adopted ducks at the third annual Duck Dive for Education. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

The Forsyth County Education Foundation held its third annual Duck Dive for Education drawing on Friday, April 1, at the Cumming Aquatic Center, picking one lucky duck as the winner of a $10,000 grand prize.

Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden randomly fished out one of more than 7,800 rubber ducks, each “adopted” for a $10 donation by community members and local sponsors.

As he took it out of the center’s lazy river, Bearden held up the rubber duck to the camera live streaming the event to virtual guests and announced the official winner: Seth Doniphan, an eighth-grade student at Riverwatch Middle School.

Michelle Doniphan, Seth’s mom and a teacher at Settles Bridge Elementary School, said she couldn’t believe it when she heard they had won.

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Seth Doniphan, an eight-grade student at Riverwatch Middle School, holds up the blue rubber duck he got after his mom, Michelle, donated to the Duck Dive in his name. Photo courtesy of the Doniphan family.
She had just gotten back to her classroom after the end of the day when she saw an email from Hannah Samples, the district’s communications facilitator, telling her they had the winning duck.

“This is not an April Fool’s joke, right?” she remembers asking her student teacher. “This is really happening.”

After a moment of disbelief, Michelle ran into the hallway, yelling, “We won $10,000!”

“I was freaking out,” Michelle said, laughing.

On the way home, she stopped to pick up balloons and cookies and meet her son at his bus stop to surprise him with the news.

But when she told him he had won $10,000, he seemed more interested in the cookies she was holding.

“I don’t think he even registered,” Michelle said. “In an eighth grader's mind, it’s like what does $10,000 mean?”

But since Seth won the prize, she is planning to put the money into his college fund. After telling him his first year of college would be paid for, she said he seemed much more excited.

Michelle never expected they would win, and she said she had actually forgotten she adopted the ducks before.

She remembers deciding on a whim while adding money to the family’s school lunch accounts that she would adopt three rubber ducks — one for her and two for each of her sons.

“Best $30 I’ve ever spent in my life,” Michelle said.

Bearden said the remaining funds donated by the community and local sponsors will go to the Forsyth Education Foundation, which invests donations directly back into the schools through grants.

A fund of the North Georgia Community Foundation, the Education Foundation has provided $355,000 in grants to schools in the county since 2016 to help support innovative teaching and learning that is not usually covered by the district’s operating budget.

Evan Profeta, president of the foundation’s governing board, said this funding, coupled with passionate teachers, directly benefits students and the community. Overall, he said the foundation has impacted nearly 76,000 students in the county.

“Because of the efforts of this year’s fundraiser, we’re going to be able to impact even more students,” Profeta said.

Applications for these school grants will open after spring break on Monday, April 11.

Bearden also took a moment to thank the 39 local businesses and corporations who sponsored the Duck Dive this year.

“We are so thankful for each of you and your commitment to Forsyth County Schools,” Bearden said.

The drive’s top sponsors were Bryan Properties and Automation Direct, donating $10,000 each to the foundation. Bearden said these sponsors have worked to support the school system for many years, providing support to career tech programs and many individual schools where needed.

For more information on the Forsyth County Education Foundation and the school grants, visit www.forsyth.k12.ga.us/edfoundation.

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Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden speaks to a small crowd at the Cumming Aquatic Center for the Education Foundation's third annual Duck Dive for Education. - photo by Sabrina Kerns
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Evan Profeta, president of the Forsyth County Education Foundation Governing Board, speaks at the 2022 Duck Dive for Education. - photo by Sabrina Kerns
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Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden holds up the winning duck. - photo by Sabrina Kerns