12 projects share $13,000 in grants from the Grand Island School Foundation | Grand Island Local News
The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation this week distributed a dozen classroom mini-grant checks totaling $13,815 to GIPS campuses — including a check for a student-led project.
Kenny Morales, a junior from the Academy of Engineering and Technology, proposed a day camp to give underrepresented eighth-graders opportunities they might not otherwise have had. According to Traci Skalberg, executive director of the GIPS Foundation, Morales’ project is the first student to receive a scholarship since the mini-scholarships were created.
Matthew Wichman, director of the GISH Academy of Engineering and Technology, said Morales had been exploring creating mentorship opportunities for some time. “It’s something he came up with on his own. He’s been thinking about mentorship mechanisms for young students, especially diversity students, for some time. He was finally able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and M (Alexander) Kemnitz was there to help him with what he was doing.
Alexander Kemnitz, a teacher at the GIPS Academy of Engineering and Technology, plays an advisory role. He said Morales came up with the idea of teaching eighth graders about coding, robotics and engineering in a summer camp format “while pairing them with exceptional high school students who can be good role models. in their life”.
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Kemnitz said Morales indicated he was inspired by his own experiences in STEM. “(Morales) said when he was in college, he never had someone in his life to encourage him and push him into STEM careers and be a role model,” Kemnitz said. “It was really important to him to give students the opportunity to succeed in STEM and have good role models.”
High school mentors will also benefit, Wichman explained. “In the field of engineering, there aren’t a ton of high school and internship opportunities available. This gives our high school students the opportunity to share things they are excited to learn in class.
Camp is something Morales would have enjoyed, he said. “At the time, I was always fascinated by robots – I tried to see how they worked. I never understood how they worked when I was younger, but I always wanted to know.
Tentative plans for the camp – dubbed “GR.IT (Grand Island Tenacity) Robotics” – are due to have it for two weeks in June. Kemnitz said they expect about 30 attendees, as well as high school teacher-mentors. Students will create something at camp that they can take home.
Along with the basics and application of robotics, students will learn soft skills such as problem solving, divergent thinking, communication, and leadership.
Kemnitz said going this far — including awarding $1,500 for the GIPS Foundation project — was well thought out. “A lot of thought went into that. (Morales) knew that, and he just needed my help to make it marketable for students,” Kemnitz said. “He had the want and the need, and he said that I had experience, so we thought about it.”
There will be an application process for participants. Morales and Kemnitz will work with guidance counselors to develop the criteria. Kemnitz said they hope to prioritize primarily underrepresented students. “We really want to make sure we get the underserved population first — those students whose parents can’t afford a camp.”
The GR.IT Robotics Camp Project is among the recipients of the 18th annual round of GIPS Foundation Mini-Grants. Since its inception, the foundation has funded 307 mini-grants, totaling $280,398. The grants are designed to fund educational opportunities for students that are not available through the general school district budget.
Every school in the district received a mini-grant at some point, benefiting approximately 58,463 students. The 2021-22 Mini-Grant Fund was created through the staff and board fundraiser “Extraordinary Opportunities” and community campaign “GR.IT – Grand Island Tenacity” held over the last 12 months.
Grants range from $250 to $2,000. There will be 3,216 students who will benefit from a mini-grant in the classroom this school year.
Jessica Votipka is an education reporter at the Grand Island Independent. She can be reached at 308-381-5420.