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Sparking curiosity, developing hands-on learning for Dowling Elementary students

Back in March, schools and organizations serving K-12 students in Sparklight communities had the opportunity to win $3,000 to fund their science, technology, engineering or math project or club as part of the internet service provider’s annual “Dream Bigger” social media campaign. 

Jon Drisco, General Manager for Sparklight in Odessa said, “We gave away $15,000 in grants to 5 schools across the country. The entries were narrowed down to 10 then posted online for community voting.” Drisco said Dowling Elementary received 1,200 votes for their grant proposal to start a STEM Club and a field trip visit to Texas Tech University for STEM related activities. 

“The diverse and innovative ways students in the communities we serve utilize technology both inside and outside of the classroom is impressive and paves the way for our future,” said Trish Niemann, Sparklight’s Senior Director of Corporate Communications. “In an increasingly digital world, made more evident during the Coronavirus pandemic, we are excited to see how technology is helping students dream bigger, and we want to do our part to help make those dreams happen.”  

Courtney Selking, Communities in Schools Campus Coordinator at Dowling Elementary was the author of the grant. She said, “It came about because Mrs. Marshall sent me an email about the grant and asked if I was interested in doing it because Dowling doesn’t have STEM programming. We hope to serve Communities in Schools students that often don’t have possibilities like that and possibly other students, however many we can cover.” 

This year Dowling Elementary was selected as a pilot elementary campus for Communities in Schools, whose mission is to empower students to stay in school. 

Selking said the students received news about the grant and were excited. “I’m pretty sure they’ll be more excited next year when they actually see some of the things they’ll be doing. I’ve received donations of different STEM materials and equipment already, they were excited when they saw that. They want to be able to start coding. Being able to have opportunities, to be enaged with that at a young age could make an impact on what they decide to do with their future.” 

Julie Marshall, Principal at Dowling Elementary, said she’s really excited to start an after-school opportunity for the students at her campus. “Because like Courtney said, many of the kids that come to Dowling don’t have the opportunity to participate in after school activities that are paid for and so for us to offer this for our families, I think we’ll make an impact that kids will be excited to be here and stay here. And the kids we serve through Communities in Schools are the kids that desperately need that connection here at school to feel involved and kind of find a purpose. So, I think a lot of them will be really excited. Once they understand what STEM is, it’s so different. Once they realize I don’t have to sit in a chair and learn a lesson, it’s hands on, I’m learning through what I’m doing, I think it’s really going to make an impact on our kids.”

Reps from CIS, Sparklight and Dowling pose with grant check