CEF awards $25,000 in mini grants

Camas schools are the beneficiaries of everything from play equipment to science research funds

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Skyridge Middle School Principal Aaron Smith and Librarian/Media Specialist Connie Pappas, and two students grin after receiving their mini-grant for Kindle eReaders. Pappas was awarded funds to buy the devices as part of a technology pilot program.

Last week was like Christmas all over again for several local schools.

That’s because the Camas Educational Foundation came through with its annual “prize patrol,” awarding 32 mini-grants to educators across the Camas School District.

Grant requests funded items ranging from play equipment for the Papermaker Pre-School to seed money for student science research projects at Camas High School.

“Once again, we were overwhelmed with innovative requests and did our best to meet the district’s needs,” said Ron Gompertz, CEF president. “The generosity of the Camas community was very much appreciated by the teachers, students, and staff who received funding this year.”

CEF’s mini-grant program provides up to $1,500 per grant to encourage “creative, innovative and collaborative projects,” that will have a direct impact on student learning. A program can be funded for up to three years, after which the program needs to become self-sustaining or district funded, according to a press release from CEF.

“One of many success stories we’re very proud of is the district’s Science Olympiad program,” said Carrie Schnell, mini-grant co-chair. “With community support and teacher dedication, every school in the district has a team, and many compete well at the regional and state levels. After this year, the Camas Science Olympiad program will be self-sustaining. We’re delighted to have helped fund this effort.”

This year, there are two technology-based pilot programs funded by CEF grants. One will use iPads to help non-verbal elementary school students communicate better with teachers and other students; the other will use Kindle eReaders at the middle school level.

Other grants funded programs such as books for elementary school students, an “all school read” book program for Hayes Freedom High School, assemblies and musical equipment.

“We were impressed with the great ideas the teachers, staff and other applicants had and the effort they made in finding multiple avenues to fund their projects, such as collaborating with (parent organizations). This allows the CEF dollars to stretch further,” said Patty Carlson-Kuhta, mini-grant co-chair. “We were very happy to collaborate with the (parent groups), and other groups who provided matching funds.”

However, needs exceeded available funding: Of the 42 requests totalling nearly $50,000, only 32 could be funded, and some of those only partially.

CEF hopes to raise additional grant funds with its upcoming events in 2011, according to the press release. These events include the district-wide phone-a-thon during the first week of March, a benefit concert at the Liberty Theatre (date to be announced), the Camas Iron Chef event in April, a fun run during the Camtown Youth Festival in June, and the annual CEF auction in October.

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