Students from 17 regional public schools will enjoy new opportunities this semester after Midwest Energy Cooperative awarded $30,476.20 in Strengthening Schools grants. The grants are funded with partnership dollars from Touchstone Energy Cooperative.

A committee comprised of co-op members evaluated and scored 89 applications totaling more than $156,000, then determined the final awards without knowledge of the school, district or community. Committee members included Della Bundle of Cassopolis, Kathye Herrera of Morenci, and Melisa Shafer of Edwardsburg.

Bundle reflected on the process after serving a second year on the committee. “It’s heart wrenching to not be able to give to every school, but wonderful that through true community spirit, we help bridge the gap where budgets fall increasingly short.

“For me, being a co-op member equaled being a satisfied customer, but when I joined this effort, my status changed from consumer to champion,” she continued.

Awards were presented to the following schools and projects:

  • Bloomingdale High School, $2466.72 for smart drone and accessories for digital curriculum
  • Brandywine Elementary, $2000 for special education classroom activity seating
  • Cassopolis Ross Beatty Junior/Senior High School, $2000 for technology for student-run art classes
  • Centerville Junior High School, $1800 for STEM program curriculum and materials
  • Coloma Community Schools, $2500 for a projector and interactive SMART board
  • Dowagiac Middle School, $2459.90 for Sphero and Galaxy tablets
  • Dowagiac Union Schools, $1300 for the Greenhouse Club
  • Hudson Lincoln Elementary, $2500 for Inspiron laptops
  • Lawrence Junior/Senior High School, $2500 for a “Newcomer” class
  • Lenawee Intermediate School District, $2500 for a watershed water quality data collection program
  • Marcellus Elementary, $1600 for music and physical education classroom supplies
  • Mattawan Early Elementary, $300 for writing workshop program supplies
  • Niles Howard-Ellis Elementary, $2000 for Little Bit Science kits
  • Onsted High School, $2000 for digital art portfolio technology
  • Paw Paw Later Elementary, $700 for English language learning program technology
  • Tecumseh Middle School, $1400 for after-school robotics club supplies
  • Three Rivers Andrews Elementary, $450 for behavior modification/sensory toys

“It was truly a pleasure to honor the creativity and learning needs in our community through participating in the grant review,” Shafer said. “We all worked in a true cooperative manner to share our resources and I’m excited for the students’ opportunities that will result.”

Information and applications for the 2016-17 funding cycles will be available at beginning in April.

Midwest Energy Cooperative is a member-owned electric utility providing electric distribution and an assortment of energy- and telecommunications-related programs and services to more than 35,000 customers in 11 counties in southern Michigan and northern Indiana and Ohio.

Photo: Dowagiac Union High School students Genesis Avila (left) and Mary Leverson transplant lettuce at the student-led greenhouse. The school was awarded $1300 to support the program, which engages students with learning about growing plants and sustainable practices, beautifying school grounds and community areas, and marketing and managing plant sales.