Malheur County organizations use foundation grants to support summer programs

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The state-funded grants to provide programs to underserved students have served their purpose well in Malheur County. Leaders of local organizations explain how they used the extra money throughout the summer.

The Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario received one of the largest summer learning grants in Malheur County. (AUSTIN JOHNSON / The Company)

ONTARIO – Nine organizations in Malheur County have received a total of $ 318,958 from the Oregon Community Foundation to help children ages 5 to 18 learn over the summer.

The foundation also provided $ 40,000 for other summer programs in Malheur County for early childhood learners.

The Learning Grants were made to organizations that had experience in delivering after-school programs to youth or that were in partnership with another organization that had done so.

Maureen Kenney, public relations manager for the Oregon Community Foundation, said 56% of grantees serve rural communities.

“Almost 40% of students in Oregon attend schools in rural communities and, due to geographic isolation and resource constraints, many have little access to summer programs,” said Belle Cantor, manager. core of the foundation’s education program.

A second objective of the grants was to reach young people of color.

“Black, Indigenous and other communities of color have been disproportionately affected by the current crises and these communities have already experienced significant disparities in education,” Cantor said. “With these grants, it is essential that we prioritize programs that serve youth of color in order to reduce educational disparities.”

The three largest grants in Malheur County have gone to the Boys & Girls Club of the Western Treasure Valley, the Four Rivers Cultural Center and the Malheur Education Service District.

The Boys & Girls Club, which received $ 75,000, used the money to fund “10 weeks of over nine hours of service; any additional food not covered by the summer food service program, staffing, transportation, field trips, program supplies and general operating expenses, ”according to Dana Castellani, its executive director.

Castellani said the organization intended to use the grant funds by the end of the year.

“We were able to deliver a summer program that met our goals – delivering programs focused on academic achievement, socio-emotional learning, healthy lifestyles, character and leadership,” said Castellani.

The Four Rivers Cultural Center, which received $ 60,000, used the money to fund personalized museum tours, Friday storytelling hours, pop-up parks, activity boxes, art classes and a support for the Covid quarantine.

Matt Stringer, executive director of the cultural center, said the summer programs had been extremely successful, involving more than 4,000 children.

Stringer said participation in the cultural center’s programs reflected local demographics, with more than 40% of children living in poverty and more than 70% from Latinx families.

“We are looking for foster families, juvenile justice services, refugees, immigrants, migrants, people with disabilities, an English second language, single parent families, distressed families and hyper-rural children (within 15 miles of a school or a city), ”he said. “We encourage children with little or no means to participate in our programming. Successfully serving marginalized children is our reward and a fantastic use of OCF funds.

The remaining money will be used for Halloween programming.

The Malheur Education Service District received $ 38,604 for its Frontier STEM Hub, which offers science, technology, engineering and math programs to local students.

Nickie Shira, STEM and Innovation Coordinator, said that so far $ 12,604 has been spent and the remaining money will be used to “extend Maker Space opportunities to young people beyond the school day. mainstream and provide STEM enrichment to youth and families through community events. “

In the summer, the STEM Hub partnered with other groups to create an aviation career exploration academy for high school students, a collaborative workspace with access to tools for summer school students. , and STEM in the park and other community events.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career and nothing interested me enough to do it all my life,” said a student who participated in the aviation program. “When I first came here, I never thought of aviation as a career and didn’t know what to expect. I am glad I signed up because it opened my eyes and I will continue my aviation career through this program.

Officials at the Oregon Community Foundation said the summer programs they funded would hopefully lead to increased engagement of young people in their education.

“In light of the crises of the past year, this summer has been a critical time for raising and mentoring the children of our state,” said Max Williams, president of the foundation. “OCF is proud to have provided much needed support to disproportionately affected families and communities across Oregon. “

Tip for the news? Contact journalist Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.

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