SELCO Community Credit Union Awards 54 SPARK! Creative Learning Grants to Oregon Teachers

The credit union awarded more than $45,000 to launch creative classroom programs and projects.

01/8/2019

Promotional image of guitar building class
Creswell High School teacher Jared Wolfsen was awarded a SELCO Community Credit Union SPARK grant in 2017. The Oregon teacher used the funds to educate students on the practical uses of mathematics.

SELCO Community Credit Union’s educational roots took hold 80 years ago when the credit union was founded by a group of fiscally minded teachers. The Oregon-based credit union continues its legacy of supporting education through its annual SPARK! Creative Learning Grants program, recently awarding a record $45,587 to 54 teachers across the state.

The SPARK! program was developed to support educators who have innovative classroom ideas but may lack the funds to launch their projects. SPARK! helps make them possible by awarding grants of up to $1,000 to K-12 educators across the 26 Oregon counties that SELCO serves. This year’s grant awardees include entries from 48 Oregon schools offering 54 inventive programs and projects, including a solar robotics project, a forensic science class and an astronomy club.

Mark Habliston, a social studies and STEM teacher at Culver Middle School in Culver, Oregon, whose forensic science class is among this year’s awardees, looks forward to giving students insight into a specialized field they might not otherwise have access to.

“By introducing students to forensic science at a young age, we hope to spark a curiosity that takes them into high school where they can take more forensic science classes and possibly be motivated for potential careers,” said Habliston. “As a small rural school in central Oregon, our students don’t have access to as many experiences or exposure to careers that are outside of our community. We are hoping to use this grant to make that exposure happen.”

Another awardee, Karen Klus, a fourth-grade teacher at Henry L. Slater Grade School in Burns, Oregon, is hoping students will take advantage of the opportunity to learn about new technology with her project.

“I’m very excited to see my students work collaboratively on building solar powered robots while learning about alternative energy sources,” said Klus.

Interest and participation in the SPARK! program are growing. The SELCO selection committee chose the grant winners from a pool of 238 applicants, which is more than double last year’s 111 applicants. The selection committee focuses on identifying innovative projects that will have the largest possible impact on students and leave a lasting impression.

“These programs and projects are creative and innovative, but too often the funds needed to get each one off the ground are difficult for educators to obtain,” said SELCO Vice President of Marketing, Laura Illig. “The sharp increase in the number of applicants and the program-high award total shows the growing need for support like this. SELCO is thrilled that we were able to step up and offer more grants than ever before.”

For more information on SELCO’s SPARK! Creative Learning Grants or to follow the progress of some of the grant winners, visit the SPARK! program webpage.