By SHANNON WATKINS
Beans and Rice, which applied in conjunction with the Pulaski County school system, has again obtained three-year grant money for enhancement out of school programs at Dublin Elementary and Pulaski County High. It has assisted schools in the system since 2008.
“It’s an example of where federal tax dollars go to make impact in the local community. I always think people should know that,” said Beans and Rice Executive Director Eric Bucey. He added that the money comes from the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant program, which is the single largest funding source for out-of-school programs in the country. It is federally funded as part of the No Child Left Behind Program, according to Bucey, but administered through the state.
“I want to make sure everybody knows this is a joint project. It really is a partnership where the schools are doing as much as we’re doing. It’s a joint thing between both entities,” said Bucey. “We do the program design for the grants, and the school is an applicant with us as co-applicant.”
As far as the grants themselves, “There were actually two grants that were awarded,” said Bucey. “One was for Dublin Elementary to get another three years of enhancement funding and the other was for Pulaski County High School to get a new program there.”
The grant was applied for in April of this year and awarded on Sept. 10. Dublin Elementary was awarded $185,000 and Pulaski County High was awarded $180,000, both for three years, though they must provide continuation applications each year that demonstrate the funding is being used correctly.
“(The grants) enhance the existing out-of-school-time programs that we were doing through the previous grants,” he said. Some of the programs Bucey cited at Dublin Elementary include Microsociety, in which kids run a miniature society, taking on roles and “jobs,” and parent engagement programs, which encourages parents to see what their children have done.
“The programs accept applications from all third, fourth and fifth grade students at the school, but it definitely targets kids who are struggling academically, kids who qualify for free or reduced lunch, students who receive special education,” said Bucey. “They are students who get priority selection, in terms of the program.”
Bucey said the Pulaski County High programs for the grant “are new and we’re working on getting that set up, but it’s going to offer before and after school homework drop-in centers and tutoring for kids who need help completing assignments, or studying for a test in a particular subject that they might need help with. There’s going to be two teachers there in the morning. We’ll have up to nine working in the afternoon.” Bucey said the programs would be project-based. He gave examples such as a fashion design club designing and making clothes for a community fashion show, or an engineering club designing a NASA rocket engine.
“I think rural communities often get the complaint from young people that ‘There’s nothing for us to do,’” said Bucey. “And this is a great opportunity for kids of multiple schools and multiple grades to get involved in something positive, to make a difference, to have a good time, to learn things that are going to be important to them, now and later.”