Members of the Power of Centennial (POC) group are hopeful going forward that they will have more funding requests so their dollars can continue to have an impact on Centennial students.
Although the group has had a couple of grant cycles where only two or three requests came in, the most recent round was probably first time the group only received one grant application. POC funded four grants last spring.
POC, a subcommittee of the Centennial Area Education Foundation (CAEF), meets twice each year to determine where it would like its dollars to go within the community. Members meet in the fall and spring; each member commits to giving $50 at each meeting. All dollars raised are given as grants to support education in the Centennial area. POC members vote to decide which grant requests to fulfill.
The group has historically met at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Circle Pines, but throughout the pandemic had to shift to virtual meetings via Zoom. However, for the first time since the pandemic began, the group was finally able to meet in person again for the fall meeting.
“I'm so thankful we were able to meet in person, and hope to continue this trend going forward,” said POC Co-Chair Talia Averbeck. “One of our goals over the next year is to increase community awareness of the group and expand areas where we can provide support. Being able to meet in person to connect with our educators and community members will help this program thrive.”
The group currently has approximately 50 active members. Since its inception, POC has awarded $23,460 in funding (not including the most recent round of grants). This fall, POC raised a little more than $1,700 in funds to distribute, in addition to $400 carried over from last spring’s cycle.
POC will fund its one and only request, submitted by Karen Stevens, a kindergarten teacher at Golden Lake Elementary. She requested $124 to purchase nine different books that focus on social justice and racial equity for young learners to use in her classroom, as well as the other kindergarten classrooms.
“My hope is to increase the number of books in my classroom that encourage social justice and equity for all. These books will be used throughout the entire year,” Stevens wrote in the grant application. “The books will be used to help students to grow in empathy, understanding differences, individuality, tolerance, belonging and acceptance.”
POC members guessed the low turnout for grant applications may have to do with current circumstances: the ongoing pandemic, staffing shortages and an overall stressful time to be an educator.
POC meetings are typically held in November and May. In an effort to make the timing work better for teachers, the POC has decided to move up the spring meeting to March instead of May.
CAEF Past President Jan Kreminski said, “We as a board are searching for ways to help our children. That’s what we are really about. We are listening to try to figure out how to help this community.”
Grant applications for the spring session will be due by March 1. The POC will then meet March 15 to vote on which grants to fund.
Each year, CAEF typically distributes approximately $24,000 in grants. In 2021, CAEF awarded $22,000 in grants to 19 programs throughout the Centennial School District. The application window for its larger grant cycle will be Jan. 15-Feb. 28. CAEF plans to bring back its annual Gala in April, which has had to be canceled the past couple of years because of the ongoing pandemic.
“We are ready to get back at it,” said CAEF President Jesse Bentrup.
For more information on POC, CAEF or how to apply for grants, visit caefoundation.org.
Managing Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or email@example.com.