By Travis Mounts
CHENEY – The Cheney High School agriculture education program and FFA program were recognized last Friday as the recipient of a $25,000 grant from the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program.
Ag instructor Stacy DeVore accepted the award during halftime of Friday’s home football game. She was joined by students as well as several families who nominated Cheney’s program.
“We’ve known about this grant for many years, and we’ve unsuccessfully applied for it, I don’t know how many times,” DeVore said. The grant can be used for any STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs. “To be able to apply, you have to have a farmer nomination.”
DeVore sent out email and Facebook requests for nominations. The response was strong.
“We ended up getting 41 farmers around the community, and the Garden Plain area, as well, nominated us for the grant. And that opens the door for you to apply for the grant,” she said.
After that came a lengthy process with lots of forms and paperwork. Applicants had to decide if they wanted to apply for a $25,000 grant or a $10,000 grant. The smaller grant is easier to get, but you can only apply for one.
DeVore said the district has applied numerous times, although this was her first time leading the application. Cheney was a finalist a year ago, when the Renwick School District won.
“We rolled the dice one more time, and we are very thankful Monsanto gave us the grant,” DeVore said.
America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education called on local farmers to help nominate rural schools to receive nearly $2.3 million in grants to enhance their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. Local farmers answered the call. The Grow Rural Education program i sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, a philanthropic arm of Bayer.
Nominated school districts submitted a grant application that outlined how they would use the funds to enhance their students’ STEM education. A panel of qualified teachers reviewed the applications and narrow it down to the finalists. The program’s Farmer Advisory Council, consisting of approximately 30 farmer leaders from across the country, then selected the winning school districts.
“America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education is a special program because farmers play a key role in nominating local schools and evaluating and selecting the grant winners,” said Al Mitchell, Monsanto Fund president.
DeVore plans to use the money to set up a science classroom. Right now, Cheney High’s ag program does not have its own lab equipment. The new equipment will allow more in-depth instruction in animal and farm plant lessons.
“We’re trying to get a vision for how we can have a bigger space for our program,” DeVore said. As Cheney High’s student population has grown, space has become an issue for all programs.
DeVore is looking forward to moving the ag program beyond the classroom. A greenhouse is just one example of what she’d like to see.
“I’m really excited about where our ag education program is headed. We have big visions,” she said. “To be successful, we need to have our hands in the dirt, out in the field.”
The program will host a chili supper fundraiser at CHS on Oct. 19. See next week’s Times-Sentinel for more details.