Michael Parrish Endowment for Arts Education

  • "We believe in using the arts as a vehicle for positive impact. We believe in empowering students to have a voice, and we exist to provide financial access for their dreams to become a reality." 

Four images of students engaging in each art form (music, theatre, dance and visual art)


    The MICHAEL PARRISH ENDOWMENT FOR ARTS EDUCATION, established in November 2016, is made possible through the generous donation of former Guilford County Schools student, Denise Descouzis. This Endowment is administered by the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro (CFGG) as an endowed fund under the Foundation’s guidelines. Spendable income from the Endowment is available annually to Guilford County Schools Fine Arts Department (GCS Arts) from the Foundation.

    Funds may be used to facilitate arts engagement and enhance arts opportunities in all art forms (music, theatre, visual art, dance, creative writing and spoken word) afforded Guilford County Schools (GCS) students grades K-12 and the communities in which they serve. To receive funds, teachers/students must competitively submit mini-grant proposals for innovative projects that include an outreach component. Grant applications are adjudicated by a committee made up of arts administrators in the Greensboro and High Point communities.



    Picture of Denise Descouzis


    Denise Paulette Descouzis


    Denise Paulette Descouzis, M.A., was born on March 26, 1956 with a significant heart defect. She was not expected to live past age 2. Denise, however, defied medical predictions and thrived, leading a relatively normal life, and was highly involved in music, theater and dance, maintaining a virtual 4.0 scholastic average through graduate school.

    Denise received her undergraduate degree in Speech Pathology at UNCG in 1977, and proceeded to become an Audiologist, practicing for over 35 years. She realized that her passion was not only supervising graduate students in Audiology practicum, but also the leadership opportunities presented to her during her entire life, from leadership positions in many organizations, to directing high school plays in her teens, then to directing a Youth Choir for 30 years. “The ripples” in the water of life in education count - a lot.



    Photo of Michael Parrish


    Michael Parrish


    Michael Parrish, M.Ed., received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Theater Education and Communication at UNC-G. In 1973 he began his career as the drama teacher for Grimsley High School, where he had the pleasure of working with Denise in his directing debut.

    Michael was appointed to the advance leadership team tasked with logistic and curriculum design to found the Weaver Academy in 1978, where he was the first Chair of the Performing Arts Dept. In 1992, he became the Distance Learning Coordinator for Guilford County School's unique participation in the North Carolina Information High-way, building and supervising 17 distance learning labs, working with all the GCS high schools and GTCC.

    For the final act of his career, he returned to the classroom for eight years at Page HS to reprise his first love, teaching and directing. 2010 marked his retirement, with 37 years of joy and fond memories of the students who so deeply touched his life and career.






    Picture of Michaeline Parrish, Committee Member


    Michaeline Parrish, Committee Member

    Michaeline Wright Parrish grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and is the oldest of four children and likely the most dramatic. During her undergraduate experience, she majored in theatre and English and spent 2 years teaching 8th grade while conducting drama classes for Birmingham Children's Theatre.

    Life then brought her to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she did her graduate work and majored in Child Drama. After a brief stint teaching back home in Birmingham, Michaeline returned to Greensboro to create a program for artistically gifted children for Greensboro City Schools and performed in many community theatre productions. Three years later she began an 11-year run teaching academically gifted students until the first arts elementary magnet opened at David Jones Elementary School where she taught drama for 9 years.

    Michaeline took a 3-year break from the classroom and taught technology courses for Guilford County teachers. She returned to the classroom for her last 14 years before retiring from GCS in 2015. Since retiring she has been the Lower School Theatre Director for Greensboro Day School. She continues to perform, singing with Triad Pride Performing Arts Women's Chorus.





    Headshot of Maria-Elena Surprenant


    Maria-Elena Surprenant, Committee Member


    Maria-Elena Surprenant is from Charlotte, North Carolina and has danced for over twenty years. She studied dance at Charlotte School of Ballet and has trained and performed with the Charlotte City Ballet, Terranova Dance Theatre, the Greensboro Opera and for other various organizations. She received her B.A. in Dance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Masters in Entrepreneurship from Western Carolina University, and is certified in American Ballet Theatre's National Teaching Curriculum (pre-primary-level 3). Mrs. Surprenant is currently the Fine Arts Grants Curator for Guilford County Schools (GCS) and manages the implementation of grant funded programs pertaining to music, dance, theatre and visual art. She also oversees the contract with Guilford County Schools and the Kennedy Center-VSA Arts-Based Creative Teaching Strategies Professional Development for Special Education Teachers. Just recently she has helped launch a new arts endowment for a former GCS student, where K-12 GCS students can apply for mini grants to fund innovative arts projects. Prior to working for GCS, Maria-Elena worked in an office support role for five years in an arts department for a non-profit organization.

    Aside from performing, teaching and working in arts administration, she also enjoys serving on the Engagement Advisory Committee for the Center for Visual and Performing Arts department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is board member of ArtsGreensboro. 





    Applicants must include a GCS student with the sponsorship of their teacher. Middle school and high school students can directly apply if they have a teacher project support letter. Elementary teachers can directly apply as long as project directly involves elementary students in the planning and implementation.

    The application is for projects being completed during the 2022-2023 school year and will open on Monday, August 1. The deadline is midnight on Saturday, October 15. Applications will be adjudicated in the order they are received, and the Committee will respond within 30 days of application submission.

    Funds must be used to facilitate arts engagement and enhance arts opportunities in all art forms (music, theatre, visual art and dance) afforded Guilford County Schools (GCS) students grades K-12 and the communities in which they serve.
    Mini-grants will be up to $500, and exceptional projects may be considered for larger funding. Project applicants should find additional funding beyond Endowment grant funds if needed to complete project.

    Funds may be spent for only those activities specified in the grant application or approved in a project or budget revision. Priority will be given to projects that are:

    ·        Collaborative 
    ·        Multidisciplinary
    ·        Multicultural
    ·        And Include an Outreach Component 

    The purposes for which funds may be used include but are not limited to:

    • Types of outreach (social media, CDs, DVDs, performances, etc.) for impacted school children that include an interactive component
    • Hands-on projects at destination school(s) involving impacted school children

    Applications may be submitted electronically or in hard copy by the deadline. Electronic applications must be in one PDF file and emailed to GCS Fine Arts Grants Curator, Maria-Elena Surprenant, at surprem@gcsnc.com. If a hard copy is submitted, only one copy should be provided to the GCS Arts Department (attn: Maria-Elena Surprenant), 501 W. Washington St., Greensboro, NC, 27401. Faxed and late applications will not be accepted.


    Michael Parrish Endowment for Arts Education does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed),gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations.


    Questions regarding the application process may be directed to Maria-Elena Surprenant at surprem@gcsnc.com.



    Grant Application: Application is CLOSED





    Donations can be made via check or online. Checks can be made out to "Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro" with "Michael Parrish Endowment" in the memo line, and are to be mailed to 330 S. Greene Street, Suite 100, Greensboro, NC 27401.

    Online donations can be made here