Twenty-nine school districts across Southwestern Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia and eastern Ohio were awarded $132,858.08 in grant funding, with four Greene County school districts receiving a total of nearly $25,000 for various projects.

Through a partnership led by Chevron, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, EQT Foundation, and Equitrans Midstream Foundation, the program – called “Innovation Grants,” now in its fourth year – seeks to encourage school districts, primarily in rural communities, to develop engaging programs and curriculum with innovation and design serving as the driving force behind science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics education.

“The Innovation Grants connect students to originative and meaningful learning opportunities previously unafforded,” said Dr. Kristin Szewczyk, IU1 assistant executive director, in a release recently issued by IU1. “The projects funded by these grants provide creative ways to meet curriculum standards while preparing students for the future, whether college or a career.”

Since 2017, the Chevron and Benedum Foundation-led initiative has awarded more than $500,000 in Innovation Grants to schools across the region. The program was expanded with EQT’s support during the 2018-2019 school year, and this year the program was further expanded with support from the Equitrans Midstream Foundation.

“Mini-grants like these are incredibly valuable in tapping the creativity of frontline educators; too often the ideas that are overlooked by large-scale top-down projects,” said Dr. Jim Denova, vice president of Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. “Pooling funds with the corporate sector also sends a message of cross-sector collaboration - business, private philanthropy, and public education - and the energy sector in particular has been strategic in the tri-state region around investments in education and workforce development.

“The Benedum Foundation has had a longstanding partnership with Chevron and EQT, and we are excited about Equitrans Midstream’s engagement in the culture of coordinated funding that our area’s energy companies have embraced,” he added.

Pennsylvania will have 14 projects in 11 school districts across Greene, Washington and Fayette counties funded, receiving a combined $60,828.60 for initiatives aimed at topics including coding, robotics, STEM and digital art.

In Greene County, Southeastern Greene School District’s Bobtown Elementary School and Mapletown Junior-Senior High School will receive $4,734 in funding for a VR – Learning with an Impact program, while Central Greene School District’s Waynesburg Central Elementary School is receiving $5,000 for its “Cutting Into the 21st Century”- SmART Space 3.0 initiative.

West Greene School District’s Junior-Senior High School is receiving $1.815.77 in funding for Mentored Diagnostic Training in the Dual Enrollment Anatomy and Physiology Classroom, and the West Greene Elementary Center is receiving $5,000 for its Elementary STEM and Real-World Critical Thinking initiative.

Carmichaels Area School District’s elementary, middle and high schools will obtain $5,000 from the funding stream for a pilot project.

Cassandra Menhart, a library media specialist at Carmichaels Middle-Senior High School, said she has been able to achieve her goals through the Innovation Grants.

“My main objective is to keep our library vibrant in a time that many schools are opting to remove them from their schools, Menhart said. “The Innovation Grant has been instrumental in keeping our library alive by giving our students ‘real life’ experiences. In the 2019-2020 school year, because of this grant, we were able to install a Finance Lab where students have the ability to learn about the world of finance and the stock market.

“Now, we will be able to give students the opportunity to explore the world through flight simulation,” she added.

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