BELOIT — This spring the School District of Beloit will offer its first Grow Your Own scholarships thanks to the generosity of donors, including administrators and staff in the district.
The program had already raised $44,202 as of Monday morning, according to Darrell Williams, assistant superintendent of administration, operations and equity.
“Our goal was to raise $50,000 by the end of the school year. We kicked this off in August and we are almost there,” he said.
The Grow Your Own Scholarship Program in Beloit is modeled after the Janesville Multicultural Teacher Opportunities Scholarship program. Started by former State Senator Tim Cullen in Janesville, the program awards scholarships to students who agree to major in education and apply for teaching positions in their home school district when they graduate.
In Beloit, Williams explained that the goal is to give out $5,000 per year to a student who will pursue a teaching career. These students will be strongly encouraged to come back and teach for at least three to five years in the School District of Beloit. This spring two of the scholarships will be available.
Williams said any minority students including African Americans and Latinos will be able to apply for the scholarship in November. The awards will be given out in June.
Momentum for the Grow Your Own program started last spring when the Beloit Education Association (BEA) helped organize a jazz fundraiser at the Eclipse Center which raised a few thousand dollars.
The fund also received a $10,000 donation from Cullen as well as support from Advia Credit Union.
“We are thankful to Tim Cullen for his donation of $10,000 to this event which he pledged before. He really followed through on this. As one of the founders of the Janesville Grow Your Own program, he met with us several times to give us his advice, guidance and financial pledge. He put his money where his mouth is to support the program,” Williams said.
The Stateline Community Foundation will act as the fiscal agent, administering the funds for Beloit’s Grown Your Own program.
This fall Williams invited school administrators to donate $10 per pay period and staffers to donate $5 per pay period through an automatic payroll deduction.
“I’m overwhelmed with the level of support from teachers and administrators. They believe it’s important our students have teachers that look like them,” Williams said.
Williams said he asks people if they believe it’s important students be exposed to at least one teacher that looks like them during the course of their education, and most people agree.
He said it’s increasingly challenging to find minorities going into education to hire. Having the scholarships, he said, will help the effort.
“This is one of the district’s efforts to help diversity the school district. Last year the district was 60 percent minority and we want to make sure staff reflects the district and community,” Williams said.
To help raise more awareness of the Grow Your Own program, Williams said water bottles with the program’s logo and information about making donations will be passed out. Those who keep a water bottle’s label will be able to use it to attend sporting events or other district festivities for free, with the exception of homecoming.
The Stateline Community Foundation will act as fiscal agent for the scholarship. People can make a donation by contacting the Stateline Community Foundation 608-362-4228.
Donations also can be made on the School District of Beloit homepage, https://classmunity.com/sdbwi/view-campaign.php?campaign_id=39.
Williams said many other diversity efforts are underway in the district. Williams is working to organize a Martin Luther King event for the City of Beloit. There still will be strong support for the annual event at Blackhawk Technical College but there will be a new event just for Beloit. In May, he said the district will be hosting a new Beloit teacher recognition gala for teachers, parents and students.