A total of almost $25,000 in grants is headed to Columbia High School and Henkle Middle School, courtesy of the efforts of the White Salmon Valley Education Foundation (WSVEF).
The WSVEF was founded in April 2006 with a mission of enhancing "the quality of public education within our community by creating stable programs and sources of supplemental funding for education enhancement."
Areas the WSVEF has prioritized for the 2006-2007 school year are: science, math, and technology; reading and language arts; foreign languages; social studies; vocational and industrial arts; music, visual and performing arts; health and physical education; and leadership and interpersonal skills.
The grants are available to all three schools -- Columbia High School, Henkle Middle School, and Whitson Elementary School.
The largest piece of the current $25,000 grant package is for $5,800, which will go to enhance and expand the industrial and mechanical robotics program at Columbia High School.
Chris Hipskind, who teaches the class, said the grant will allow him to open the class to additional students.
"The grant will allow us to buy more equipment so more students can be engaged," Hipskind said.
Hipskind said there are 14 students in the robotics program, which started in November. With the grant funds, there would be enough for 20 students next time.
"There is a waiting list for this class," Hipskind pointed out. "So far, it's really popular."
The introductory robotics class will help kids tap into a growing career field, Hipskind believes.
"Students learn the technical way things work related to robotics and automation," he explained. "Underwood Fruit and SDS Lumber, for example, are becoming more and more automated for more efficiency and safety. And for those who train to maintain and design the equipment -- those are higher paying jobs."
The advisory group for the robotics program includes experts from industrial and technical fields.
"There are electricians, mechanics, and robotics engineers from Insitu," Hipskind said.
The grants will make a big difference, Hipskind believes.
"The kids and I are really appreciative of the White Salmon Valley Education Foundation," Hipskind added. "Their work will allow more students to start thinking about careers in engineering."
Other programs earning grants include:
Henkle Middle School (HMS) will get $2,100 to create a "talented and gifted" program for fifth- and sixth-graders. Projects the students will take on include building a school Web site, organizing a science fair, and exploring horticulture by planting gardens and landscaping with native plants.
HMS will receive $5,287 to fund an "instruments for everyone" program. The money will go to purchase 23 wind instruments. Students will be able to use digital recording technology to record their own CDs and compare progress in their work as they gain experience.
CHS won $4,943 to enable the school's music appreciation and technology class to digitally compose, record, edit, and publish original music compositions.
HMS will get $4,058 to create an interdisciplinary program to explore the concept of ratios in math, art, and music.
HMS will get another $2,000 for a "dessert theater" production of Narnia; the goal of the fundraiser will be to expand the school's performing arts program.
These six grants were selected from among 14 applications.
"We wish we could have funded each and every request," said Ronda Crumpacker, WSVEF board president. "They were all very good programs. Unfortunately, we just don't have the resources to finance them all. We hope, with the community's help, we'll be able to increase the number of beneficiaries in the future."
Crumpacker pointed out that WSVEF recently received a gift of $50,000 from Wallace and Priscilla Stevenson. If matching funds can be raised in the community, the Stevenson's gift will be renewed annually for the next two years.
"We've been very pleased to see so many members of the community step up to support the schools and the Foundation," Crumpacker said. "We are incredibly optimistic due to the level of support we've received. With the people's help, we can reach every child enrolled in every school in our district. We can inspire them to embrace lifelong learning. We can strengthen a community network of mentors and volunteers. And we can help build stronger, better futures for our families."
Jason Spadaro, president of SDS Lumber Co. and a WSVEF board member, said he was gratified at the support from area business owners and citizens.
"It's a very important time for the Foundation," Spadaro said. "We are hoping the Foundation begins to gather momentum. The amount of support realized so far has been incredible for our small community."
Hipskind said that as a teacher, he is enthusiastic about the potential for the new grant program at all three schools.
"I'm really excited to see the different activities granted," he said. "Arts is huge in this community, and I'm really happy to see that. I feel really blessed they picked us. We'll do our best to use the money wisely, and I know the other teachers feel the same way."