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At halftime of the Marshall football game on Friday night, The Marshall School District and the Marshall Agriculture Education department were awarded a $25,000 grant through the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program. Representing the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program are Cody Aiken and Adam VandenPlas; joining them are Marshall School Board President John Lutz, Agriculture Education instructor Paula Bakken, students Aubrey Schlimgen and Gabriella Campos, as well as nominating farmers Brenda Juedes, Rodney Juedes, Tony Schlimgen and Jeff Zimmerman.

The Marshall High School agriculture department now has an extra $25,000 to help fund the E. Peck Animal Learning Center after receiving an America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education grant. The check was presented during halftime at the Sept. 20 Marshall High School football game.

According to high school and middle school agriscience teacher Paula Bakken, the grant is sponsored by the Bayer Fund and works to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities in rural schools. Since 2011, Grow Rural Education has awarded more than $18 million in grants to more than 1,000 rural public schools.

“America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education is a unique program because farmers play an important role throughout the process, from nominating schools to selecting the grant winners,” said Al Mitchell, president of the Bayer Fund. “With the incredible support of local farmers, countless grant-winning schools have shared with us how Grow Rural Education funds have made their STEM programs more engaging and, in several instances, positively impacted test scores.”

To qualify for a Grow Rural Education grant, farmers nominate a school or school district to compete for a merit-based grant of either $10,000 or $25,000. Nominated school districts then submitted a grant application describing their STEM-focused project. Grow Rural Education’s Farmer Advisory Council, consisting of approximately 30 farmer leaders from across the country, reviewed the finalist applications and selected the winning school districts.

This is the first year Marshall has been awarded the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education grant and, to the best of Bakken’s knowledge, the first time it has been nominated. She said the district received three nominations – one each from Rodney and Brenda Juedes, Tony Schlimgen, and Jeff Zimmerman.

“I was honored that these local farmers supported our project and our vision for the animal agriculture learning center,” Bakken said.

The nominated school districts are able to decide whether to apply for a $10,000 or $25,000 grant. The Marshall teacher initially planned to pursue the smaller grant with the thought that the district would have a better chance of receiving the funds as there were more grants available at that amount.

“When I started writing the application I realized we had a greater need for funding and I felt I could convey my excitement and passion for this project in my application so I decided to pursue the larger grant. I’m glad I did,” she said.

Bakken plans to use the money to furnish and install equipment the E. Peck Animal Learning Center, which broke ground on the site Aug. 15.

“While we have secured funding for the building itself we currently still fall short in fully furnishing and setting up the inside,” she said. “This grant will allow us to purchase science equipment such as microscopes, scales, a refrigerator, and other science lab supplies. It will also assist us in installing sinks for hand washing and water for biosecurity needs.”

The agriscience department spent about three years fundraising the learning center; the idea was initially brought before Bakken in 2015 by a student. The building is currently undergoing construction with interior work set to be done in spring 2020.

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