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Southmoreland High School gets $10,000 science program grant

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

With the help of some local farmers, Southmoreland High School has won a $10,000 grant to put toward its science program.

America's Farmers Grow Rural Education, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, offers farmers the chance to nominate a local public school district, which can then compete for a grant of up to $25,000 to enhance math and/or science education.

The Vance family and the Catalina family both nominated the district for the grant.

Tim Catalina said his family was actually contacted by a Monsato representative in 2012 explaining that the grant funds through America's Farmers Grow Rural Education were available for the first time in Westmoreland County.

Catalina said it was a great feeling to be able to nominate Southmoreland and help the children in the area.

Those farmers who nominated the district for the grant included Alvin Vance, Jennifer Vance, Kelly Vance, Adam Vance, Janet Vance, Thomas Catalina Jr., Darleen Catalina, Kathryn Catalina, Eric Catalina and Tim Catalina.

Lindsay DiCasolo, Southmoreland earth and space science instructor, said she and Chris Pollard, the technical education instructor, took part in a phone conference on completing the application and then developed their idea of the use of new software for the grant.

Nominated school districts across the country submitted grant applications in the spring. During the summer, a panel of educators from ineligible districts reviewed and evaluated applications, based on merit, need and community involvement.

The strongest submissions were then sent to the America's Farmers Grow Rural Education Advisory Council. The Advisory Council, comprised of farmer-leaders with an interest in agriculture and education, selected the winning grant applications from this pool of finalists.

This new software will allow teachers to produce high-quality instruction while encouraging students to use Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) to make informed decisions and solve problems in earth science.

“Our goal is to purchase technology to incorporate into the classroom that will help in developing the STEM curriculum,” DiCasolo said, adding they are working even now to purchase the software.

“We are on a bare bones budget, so this grant allows us to purchase things that typically our budget might not have the funds for,” DiCasolo added.

More than 1,150 nominated school districts submitted applications. The Monsanto Fund will invest $2.3 million through America's Farmers Grow Rural Education grants this year.

A check presentation ceremony took place Oct. 11, to celebrate the district's success. School administrators, students, and community members gathered at a pre-game ceremony at the high school football game to acknowledge their achievement.

Superintendent John Molnar said the district is honored that members of the local farming community took this kind of interest in their school.

“These funds will be targeted toward STEM education, and any time you can enhance your ability to be on the forefront of these initiatives, it can only benefit our students,” he said.

Rachel Basinger is a contributing writer.