Students, teachers benefit from Center Education Foundation grants
By Kathy Feist
Alec Chambers was in 8th Grade when he visited the Truman Library in Independence, MO. to participate in the White House Decision Center program. The program challenges students to step into the roles of President Truman and his advisors to tackle some of the issues they faced..The experience left an indelible mark on Alec. “I remember it vividly,” he recalls. When Alec became a history teacher at Center High School, he wanted to share that experience with his American history class, but the cost was prohibitive.
Enter the Center Education Foundation. Every year, the Foundation raises $50,000 at their Autos and Auction fundraiser in February. Those proceeds fund individual grants that help teachers provide learning experiences for classrooms..
This year, $48,000 in grants were dispersed to 34 different recipients. The grants, ranging from $400 to $5000, will be used for experiences such as field trips, robotics projects, equipment or literacy for students in elementary through high school. The grants are awarded on a competitive basis from applications completed by teachers and reviewed by the Foundation Board. There were 42 applicants this year.
A couple of decades ago, projects such as field trips and classroom equipment would have been underwritten by the school.
“Now there are so many demands on school funding especially on mental health issues that we find in schools these days, that it’s tough to make dollars go everywhere they need to go,” says Rick Chambers, Executive Director for the Center Education Foundation.”Every school district in Kansas City has a foundation like ours and that’s the reason they’ve become important.”
Alec explains that there is a budget for field trips, but it is small–$1500 a year for the entire high school history department.
Alec received a $1400 grant to take up to 200 World history students to the World War I Museum.
He received $1100 to take 40 American history students to the Truman Library White House Decision Center. He says the experience of re-creating actual decision-making scenarios from Truman’s life in the White House has helped students understand the stressful demands of real life.
“After they’ve run the White House for six hours, they are pretty tired from the pressure-packed intense day,” he says. “Always a common piece of feedback is ‘Man, I didn’t know how hard this was’ or ‘I didn’t know how tiring this way.’”
He says it’s not just a history lesson, but a life lesson on how hard one must work to have a “cool job” in the political field.
Six years ago, there were only two camcorders available when broadcast journalism teacher Steve Parker started a video program at Center High. “There were no funds for new equipment,” he says. “So each year I would go to the Center Education Foundation and propose what I needed–two camcorders, two cameras–and each year they have been gracious enough to give me the grant.”
He says the funds have “100% built” the department. They have purchased Macintosh computers for editing, camcorders, Canon DSLR cameras, independent zoom microphones, tri-pods, etc.
This year he received a $2100 grant to purchase two more Canon DSLR cameras and tripods, two digital recorders and Lavalier mics for better audio.
Last year, a graduating senior received a summer internship immediately out of high school at a Columbia, MO, TV station. “They said part of the reason he got the internship was because of what he had learned in my class,” says Parker. The student is now in the University of Missouri School of Broadcast Journalism.
“The Foundation has been a blessing for me and my students,” he says.