By Kelli Lageson
Albert Lea Tribune
Sharon Parriott, clerk of the school board, said she was going around to area businesses in search of funding for a different project, Smart Boards in the classroom, when she learned about the program. She and others urged local farmers to nominate the district for the grant program called America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund.
"They’re giving out a grant in each crop reporting district," Parriott said.
This year the program was new, and only nine crop reporting districts in Illinois and seven districts in Minnesota could apply. Only one grant was given for each crop reporting district, which means USC received its grant out of the many counties in its district including Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Freeborn, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Rice, Steele, Waseca and Watonwan.
Of the 69 eligible Minnesota counties, only seven schools received grants.
"From what I understand we had more nominations than any other school in the program," Parriott said.
After schools were nominated by eligible area farmers, districts had to do their part for the grant. USC decided to apply for the larger of the two grants, which was the grant of up to $25,000 to support math and science programs. The other grant was for up to $10,000.
The school had to decided what the funding would go toward and how it would help future classes, so USC decided they’d like to invest in equipment including microscopes, graphing calculators and more.
"I think it’s going to be a huge asset to us," Superintendent Jerry Jensen said. "These are things that right now we couldn’t afford to do."
Parriott said local farmers received phone calls Thursday that USC was chosen as the grant recipient. The winning districts will also be recognized at the Monsanto Farm Show in Illinois on Tuesday. There will also be a local celebration later this fall. Parriott said she hasn’t learned of an exact date when the school will receive the funds but that the school hopes to have the new equipment in place as soon as possible.
Jensen said the district is thankful for the committee who worked on the grant, the farmers who supported it and to Monsanto for making this money available for rural schools.
"A lot of people did a lot of work in order for this to happen," Jensen said.
Depending on the success of the program the Monsanto Fund may expand it to 38 states next year. Farmers were only allowed to nominate schools once, and grants were awarded based on merit, need and community support. Other schools in the area nominated were Albert Lea, Alden-Conger, Glenville-Emmons and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva.