Rural schools in New York State face a perpetual need for funding, but few resources to apply for grants. Since larger suburban and urban schools have more resources to secure competitive funds, rural schools fall further behind.
Now, a new course at Cornell, in partnership with the Rural Schools Association of New York State, will connect rural school districts with undergraduate and graduate students to level the playing field.
The engaged learning course “Show Me the Money: Rural Communities, Rural School Funding in New York, and How to Write a Grant Proposal” aims to help schools identify critical funding needs and then seek grant funds to support programming in under-resourced schools.
Launching in fall 2021, the course – now accepting interested students – will bring together 15 undergraduates and five graduate students into five teams. Those Cornell teams will be matched with school-district-based teams of three. Together, they will identify local district priorities and initiatives, and then work to write proposals to get those projects funded.
“Rural schools in New York confront major challenges in getting adequate resources, which too often results in students losing out on learning opportunities,” said Gretchen Rymarchyk, Ph.D. ‘00, extension associate in the Department of Global Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “This course gives Cornell students the chance to make a real-world impact here in New York and position rural school districts to flourish.”
And for rural school districts, the influx of resources can make the difference for a generation of students.
“We don’t have the personnel, resources or institutional knowledge to be competitive in the world of grant writing,” said Christopher Clapper, superintendent for the Alexandria School District, which borders the St. Lawrence River in Jefferson County. “Partnering with the Rural Schools Association and Cornell University will most certainly give us the edge we need to obtain funding for student programming.”
Other participating school districts include DeRuyter Central School District, Mount Markham Central School District, Otselic Valley Central School District and Hinsdale Central School District
The engaged course will provide experiential learning opportunities for Cornell students to better understand how political, economic and cultural forces define, shape and constrain rural communities and schools, according to Rymarchyk, who also serves as deputy executive director for the Rural Schools Association of New York State. Including graduate students in the program enhances their ability to engage in community partnerships.
“I hope that Cornell graduate and undergraduate students find this opportunity one in which they can begin shaping how rural schools are funded and ultimately impact student success,” Clapper said.
Rymarchyk received support for the course through the Engaged Faculty Fellowship Program in the Office of Engagement Initiatives (now the David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement). The program and its funding catalyzes teams of faculty, staff, students and community members to address global issues and help build a more sustainable, just and collaborative future.
Matt Hayes is director for communications for Global Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.