Column: Grants help Community Education flourishThis past year these efforts paid huge dividends as we successfully secured four different grants. The following is a description of these initiatives and how they enabled us to serve the needs of our consumers.
By: Jerry Fiola, District 518, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — What do you do when you need to make improvements to your house or repairs to your car, but you don’t have enough money in your checking account? If the need is critical, you look for other sources of income — another job, or possibly a loan from a relative or a bank.
In some ways, organizations like a school district are confronted with the same challenges. In working with students of all ages, we come to know well their educational and family support needs. Unfortunately, we oftentimes don’t have the financial resources available to develop the programs needed to adequately address these needs. Consequently, we also are forced to seek out alternative funding which is why we submit proposals for grants offered by foundations or the state and federal governments.
This past year these efforts paid huge dividends as we successfully secured four different grants. The following is a description of these initiatives and how they enabled us to serve the needs of our consumers.
VISTA: The first of Community Education’s new grant-funded initiatives for ’09-’10 was a VISTA project sponsored through the Minnesota Literacy Council (MLC). Worthington was awarded the services of a full-time VISTA worker to help establish a volunteer literacy tutoring program. Local individuals have been recruited to donate their time and talents to help learners of all ages increase their basic literacy skills. Currently, participants in three different education programs have benefited from these services — adults in the Adult Basic Education program, school-age children in afterschool programming and pre-schoolers who are acquiring early language skills in the Even Start family literacy program.
21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC): District 518 Community Education’s proposed 21st CCLC project was one of 17 to be funded by the State this past year. As a result of this grant award, over the next three years, Worthington will receive approximately $850,000 in federal funds to support afterschool and summer learning opportunities for students who are struggling academically. These monies will fund a range of educational supports, including homework assistance, enrichment activities in core academic areas as well as in the cultural arts, recreation programming, service learning, and transition programming for students entering a new school. Some 21st CCLC activities have also been designed to target the parents of the at-risk students to encourage their active involvement in their children’s education, both at home and in school.
Refugee Social Services: To respond to the needs of the growing refugee population, District 518 Community Education has teamed up with Southwestern Minnesota Opportunity Council and the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota to secure a special grant of $118,000 from Minnesota’s Office of Refugee Services. With these funds, the project partners have been able to offer services that can facilitate the refugees’ successful resettlement in Worthington and surrounding communities. The project’s ultimate goal is to promote refugees’ self-sufficiency by helping them achieve a series of intended outcomes: stable and affordable housing, permanent residency or citizenship status, reliable means of transportation (driver’s license, personal vehicles), safe and secure living environments for children as well as adults, children engaged in afterschool programs and parents participating in child development programs.
VISTA Summer Reads: Through a partnership with the Minnesota Literacy Council, District 518 Community Education will be assigned two VISTA workers who will work with local youth, grades K-6, during the summer months. Known as VISTA Summer Reads, this project has been designed to increase students’ fluency and reading speed so they are able to read at the appropriate grade level when they start school in the fall. This summer Worthington will become only the sixth outstate Minnesota community to participate in this literacy program.
Over and above these initiatives, which were new in ’09-’10, Community Education has continued to administer two additional grants that had been received previously. As with the others, these monies were awarded to the district based on proposals submitted through a competitive application process.
Even Start: Community Education has received Even Start monies for the past 12 consecutive years. Currently, Worthington’s family literacy project is one of only four such programs in Minnesota to receive this special federal funding, approximately $100,000/year. Targeted for immigrant families with pre-school children, this comprehensive project provides these families with early childhood education, adult literacy instruction, parent education and parent-child interaction time.
English Literacy/Civics Education (EL/Civics): This federal grant of approximately $40,000/year is dedicated to increasing both the English literacy and civics engagement skills of immigrant adults. The EL/Civics classes can also prepare individuals to become U.S. citizens. Due to the troubled economy, this year’s programming included an emphasis on strengthening the participants’ employment-related skills.
Even with all of these outside revenues, we still don’t have adequate resources to meet all the educational needs of our different constituencies. Nevertheless, the collective achievements of our learners have convinced us that the time and energy our staff has invested in pursuing and managing these grants has been well worth the effort.