Whether in school, learning from home, or participating in a hybrid schooling program, gaps in technology have become more apparent than ever. Rural students are especially vulnerable to falling behind in these challenging times due to insufficient available technology. The Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) addresses economic and instructional inequities in small rural schools. They provide a voice for rural educators and students where it matters.
Cabot stepped up to support this resourceful think-tank in 2018. We continue to partner with PARSS through Commonwealth Charitable Management (CCM) for a second year.
Five-year PARSS Executive Director, Ed Albert, took a decidedly hands-on approach when he embarked on road trips to personally visit all of the PARSS member districts. “Getting around the entire state, I was seeing just how poor rural school districts are,” Ed recalls. “I thought, ‘if we could give some of the teachers even a hundred dollars for materials or a project, that’s like giving them a million dollars in making a difference in the lives of kids.’”
Albert found a willing partner in Cabot. This is largely due to our commitment to education and support of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) studies.
Each November, PARSS solicits essays from teachers outlining a specific need in their schools and requesting tools to which they would otherwise not have access to enhance their programs. PARSS received about 75 applications this year. Eleven projects were selected to receive a share of $22,810. Cabot contributed $20,000 of that amount, doubling down on last year’s donation.
“This partnership with PARSS helps get money to rural schools that might not otherwise receive a lot of EITC funding,” CCM Program Director, Melissa Turlip, stated. “Our rural areas don’t have large businesses to help support the schools.”
Applications vary greatly, but most are focused on STEM studies. Moniteau School District in Butler County received funds to develop a Makerspace learning environment using cross-curricular projects for grades K-6. “The grant funding from Cabot is allowing us to re-conceptualize what it means to be educated in a rural community in the 21st century,” Tom Samosky, Moniteau’s Superintendent, remarked. “We believe that students will matriculate to our junior/senior high school and pursue STEM-related career pathways.”
Nathan King, the Mifflin County Secondary Science Coordinator, secured funding for a subscription to an online lab simulator called Gizmos. “It allows students to manipulate variables in a whole host of concepts and analyze data,” he said of the tool. This technology also helped the district overcome a lack of equipment to do all of the labs in a classroom.
We’re so impressed by the profound impact this program has made in our community. Because of its success, we knew that doubling our contribution this year was a clear choice.
We are happy to support Albert’s ambitions to help make a difference in people’s lives. If just 10 schools receive funding that helps 20 students each, he suggests, “that’s 200 kids who may go off to college to follow up on what their teacher’s gave them.” They then go on to affect more people and make our society more productive.”