“The Bozeman Schools Foundation provides resources to inspire learning, enrich teaching and create opportunities for district students through community support.”
Who They Are and What They Do
In a corner of the old Willson school building, in a unique, bright, and cozy office that used to be the men’s locker room, is the office of the Bozeman Schools Foundation. Founded in 2006, it has grown to involve multiple programs with far-reaching impacts, truly living up to their mission of inspiration, enrichment, and opportunity. From raising $2.2 million for the renovation of the Willson auditorium, to recognizing local educators, to promoting and funding art and music education in Bozeman, they have been committed to enriching our community and especially our schools. They also consistently fund and host such programs as Links to Literacy, the Worthy Student Scholarship, and Spark Grants.
Spark Grants and BACF
Something the Bozeman Schools Foundation (BSF) recognizes and has implemented into their Spark Grant program is that teachers have great ideas. They simply lack the funding or resources to make them happen. That’s why BSF started a program called Spark Grants. Each year, teachers have the opportunity to write and submit a grant application to BSF that outlines their idea, how it will be implemented, and how it will have an impact that lasts. A committee reviews the applications, chooses recipients of grant funding, and then surprises teachers and their classrooms with the wonderful news that their program has been approved.
Over the years, BSF has seen some incredible ideas. Just this past year, recipients included Morning Star Elementary, where teacher Tracy Babcock started a program called Project Lead the Way for students to learn relevant skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (S.T.E.M.) and design a robot! At Bozeman High School, teacher Abby Wesche used Spark Grant funding to purchase Quickbooks course materials so that high school students can learn applicable accounting skills, which will last them well beyond high school.
The scope of the program is widely inclusive. Any grade and a teacher from any school is eligible and recipients come from a variety of places. Because of this, all students have the chance to benefit. Their age, background, neighborhood, or previous school success doesn’t matter; everyone has the chance to experience something fun, applicable, and interesting. As Judy Slate, the BSF executive director, says, “that’s what public school is all about.”
Not only so, but the program is designed to last. Armed with tools such as Quickbooks, iPads, software, cameras, curriculum, or other equipment and resources, teachers are able to extend their reach to future students as well as current ones. It doesn’t take bottomless funds. Each year, these grants will regenerate their influence and ignite new students with skills, understanding, curiosity, and confidence. It all begins with teacher innovation and is made possible because of the Bozeman Schools Foundation. Last year, it was the privilege of the Bozeman Area Community Foundation to assist in funding the Spark Grant program and be a part of this pay-it-forward initiative. Teachers hold all kinds of matches in their hands. All they need is a little help to ignite the spark. The Bozeman Schools Foundation sees that potential and together, they are able to light the flame in the lives of students.
If you are interested in volunteering and being a part of the Bozeman Schools Foundation, you can contact them through their website (bozemanschoolsfoundation.org), give them a call at (406) 522-6071, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.