A pilot program and the support of farmers could make a big difference for area school districts, representatives of the Monsanto Fund say.
This spring, the Monsanto Fund announced the launch of the America's Farmers Grow Rural Education program. The program gives school districts the opportunity to compete for grants for math and science. Farmers play a key part in nominating their local school districts.
"Farmers are passionate about their communities and understand first-hand what rural America needs to thrive. Education is one of those critical components and most farmers - especially those who are active in their local school boards - understand that schools in rural America have some unique challenges," said Monsanto Fund President Deborah Patterson.
Overall, the program will donate more than $225,000 to school districts in 16 Crop Reporting Districts in Minnesota and Illinois. In Minnesota, CRD 7, which includes Lincoln, Lyon, Murray and Redwood counties, and CRD 4, which includes Yellow Medicine County, are both eligible.
At least two area schools are in the running for a grant so far. Loy Woelber, superintendent of the Westbrook-Walnut Grove School District, said the district has been nominated by a local farmer.
"We are going to fill out an application," Woelber said, and in the meantime he's encouraging other farmers to send in nominations.
The Monsanto Fund said grants will be awarded based on merit, need and community support. Part of the measure of "community support" comes from the number of nominations a school district receives.
Woelber said schools competing in the program can be selected to receive grants of up to $25,000.
"Eighty percent of the grants they're giving out are $2,000 to $10,000, and 20 percent are from $10,000 to $25,000," Woelber said. "I'm trying to let people know that I can roll the dice and try for the bigger amount."
Ryan Nielsen, principal at Lake Benton Elementary School, said the school has also received word it has been nominated. Nielsen said school staff haven't decided what they would like a grant to go toward if Lake Benton is picked. Science equipment could be one possibility.
"We need to figure out what would be best for the school as a whole," Nielsen said.
If an area school is selected to receive a Monsanto Fund grant, it will not be the first time. Earlier this spring, area farmer Kenneth Weedman's nomination resulted in a $2,500 grant for the Tracy Area High School FFA through America's Farmers Grow Communities, a separate Monsanto Fund program benefitting community non-profits.
More information on the Grow Rural Education program, and nomination forms, can be found online at www.growruraleducation.com. The deadline to nominate a school district is June 30.