Student input stocks shop

Published 8:50 pm Monday, February 3, 2014

In a climate where budgets are being cut left and right, enterprising teachers are finding ways to bring their students more than what they’re budgeted for.

On Jan. 30, Southside High School was awarded a $2,500 grant through AgCarolina Farm Credit’s corporate-giving program, the Fund for Rural North Carolina. Each year, the farmer-owned financial cooperative issues grants to programs that specifically benefit farms and rural residents in the counties where the company does business.

For agriculture career and technical education teacher Josh Singleton the grant award means his students will get hands-on experience with new welding equipment for the Southside shop. Singleton teaches agricultural mechanics to about 100 students a year — welding is part of the curriculum — but he’s also teaching another valuable skill to students: applying for grants.

“I try to get the kids as involved as possible,” Singleton said. “Last year, they helped me write several grants.”

Over the past three years, Singleton’s applied for and received about $15,000 in grants, and each time, it’s the students’ input that has determined where those funds were spent.

“When I started here, we didn’t have much of a shop, so I asked them ‘What is something you’d like to have?’ The first year, it was ‘We need tools,’” Singleton said. “I would find the grant and base it on what they thought we needed for the shop, class materials and stuff.”

Much needed tools, landscaping software that returns price quotes by assessing a picture, Briggs and Stratton lawn mower engines to teach small-engine repair, materials to build raised beds to grow vegetables — the end product donated to Eagle’s Wings food pantry — and new welding equipment have all been provided through grant funding, and served to expand Southside Ag students’ education, without taxing the county’s budget.

“We get a certain amount of money each year for our program,” Singleton said. “What this money does is this allows us to supplement that.”