I am overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude as I write this post. On Wednesday night, I got the most exciting news! A One-Room Schoolhouse was awarded an education grant from VELA. VELA is a nontraditional educational fund that supports innovation in education. It is truly inspiring to read about all of the organizations they have funded over the last several years. It is a movement of creative and inspiring solutions to the challenges parents, students and communities are facing these days.
But, to me, the email was not only an opportunity to join with this wonderful organization and its recipients changing the face of education, it was also the realization of a more personal goal.
“VELA invests in a growing community of independent operators who are implementing learning models outside the traditional bounds of ‘school.’ Importantly, we do this through a trust-based approach.”
VELA’s statement of purpose really resonated with me.
So many grant programs micromanage the grant process, making it nearly impossible to complete all of the prerequisites in a timely manner. Then, after the grant is received, the money must be used for a specific project, meeting certain criteria.
Not with the VELA fund! The application, although comprehensive, primarily focused on vision, meaning, and alignment of purpose. As our communication specialist board member and I worked through that process, it was freeing to know that if the grant was given, it could be used for our purpose, as long as we stayed true to our mission and values.
As I mentioned above, our communication specialist, Leah Bender, worked diligently with me on this grant. She is a talented wordsmith, and I would be remiss if I did not highlight her skill. At one point in this process, she called me to ask about the grant level we would be going for.
Although we were applying in the micro-grant range, we realized we had to indicate a funding level within the range of $2,500 to $10,000. Well, this is a pretty big range! We were a little scared.
What if VELA didn’t think we were good enough for the $10,000 grant? If we put in $10,000 and were found lacking, did we then lose our chance at any funding? We struggled with the idea of checking the smaller range, the more conservative box. We agonized. We strategized. We prayed.
Finally, I said, “Go big, or go home!” We went for the largest funding level in the micro-grant category.
Wow, did that ever pay off?!?
So, what will we do with the extra $10,000 in our budget? The board, our families, and I are beyond grateful for this support. Read more about our big fundraising goal for the year of $20,000.
We raised $14,000 at our summer fundraising gala plus another $3,500 in donations. Before this grant, we were so close to this crazy goal. Well, with this grant we have blown our first fundraising goal out of the water. Through fundraising, donations, and this micro-grant, we now sit at $27,500. Wow!
I am blown away. Many of these funds provided scholarships to students in need. This was very important to the board and our donors. But, now, we are in a place where we can make some long-lasting capital improvements and expansion plans.
For example, to start a new schoolhouse classroom at an existing location, it takes additional leased space, a new teacher and about $3,000.
If there is a request for a new schoolhouse location, it costs about $5,000 in start-up expenses, requires leasing a building with adequate green space and the right teacher with a background in education and an entrepreneurial drive (if you know anyone like this, email us!).
The board and I hope that with these funds we can do all these things: add classrooms to existing locations, start new schoolhouse locations throughout the Pittsburgh metro area, and also improve our existing classrooms and course offerings.
Also, if you look at the VELA website, you will find that they have even more grants available for previously awarded mirco grant recipients. I am excited about next fall when we can apply above the microgrant level. Who knows what may happen?
What can you do to champion innovation in education?
- Do you have a teaching background, preferably a teaching certificate? Want to enjoy teaching again? Apply to be a schoolhouse teacher here.
- Do you have a location that would like to host a satellite schoolhouse? Email [email protected].
As I wrap up this post, I want to express my deep gratitude. I knew from a young age that God was inviting me to do something meaningful with education. It has taken decades to figure out exactly what that would look like.
This path we are all walking together is young. We are only in year three! Without supportive friends, the founding board, diverse funding sources, and so many dedicated families, A One-Room Schoolhouse would not be where it is today.
I am constantly overwhelmed by how forgiving this community is of my shortcomings. As the years unfold, I am painfully aware of my weakness. But with this community, this network, these friendships, and God…nothing is impossible.
And to VELA (if anyone from your group reads our little, itty-bitty blog post), thank you. You have made our schoolhouse community so happy.