The grant was presented during halftime of a recent football game.

CHURUBUSCO – Students using the welding equipment at Churubusco Jr./Sr. High School are on the receiving end of a grant that will update the equipment and buildings.

The $25,000 grant from America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education, sponsored by the Bayer Fund, is earmarked for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs and is funded by the Bayer Fund in partnership with local farmers, who nominate rural programs as grant recipients.

Smith-Green Community Schools’ Superintendent Daniel Hile confirmed that the America Grows grant is a first for the school’s welding program.

“This is the first time that our school district has received this specific grant, and especially this large amount. However, we have received some smaller funding opportunities through this program in the past,” Hile explained.

According to teacher and FFA Advisor Phillip Allen, the grant money will be used to address specific needs for the welding classes, including a general update of the facility, new welding booths, tables, curtains and a new fan system to remove welding smoke and fumes.

“The current facility is small, crowed, outdated, worn and unsafe,” Allen said.

Hile agreed. “This grant will pay for a total renovation of our welding shop in the ag room,” he said. “The renovation will improve the welding equipment available for student use, and also improve student safety through improvements to the shop environment.

Students in various classes make use of the facility from time to time, Allen said. About 50-55 students taking the Introduction to Agriculture receive hands-on instruction and an additional 12-15 students go through a 13-week hands-on welding course in the Agriculture Mechanics course.

The program provides students with important opportunities. Among these, Allen lists: hands-on application for students; real-time results; and a chance to try something new.

It also “serves the purpose of possibly helping students decide on a career goal in this field,” he explained. “This is a job area that currently has too few people in the industry, and a very high pay scale.”

Hile offered that applying the grant funds to the welding program is a good investment in the future of Whitley County.

“We want to ensure that our students are given the best opportunities possible to learn valuable skills that may be beneficial to them after graduation,” he said. “This will give our students improved opportunities to learn valuable skills. Right now, there is an increased need for individuals who have skills and training in construction and other skilled trades. This will give an increased number of students the opportunity to learn the skill of welding, and consider if this is a path they may be interested in pursuing after high school.”

Churubusco Jr-Sr High School is one of the many schools across the country that benefited from the Grow Rural Education program, according to a press release provided by the America Grows’ Rural Education Grant Campaign. Grow Rural Education grants have helped schools purchase an array of STEM-related materials, such as augmented-reality sandboxes, weather-forecasting and robotics equipment.

“America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education is a unique program because farmers play an important role throughout the process, from nominating schools to selecting the grant winners,” said Al Mitchell, president, Bayer Fund. “With the incredible support of local farmers, countless grant-winning schools have shared with us how Grow Rural Education funds have made their STEM programs more engaging and, in several instances, positively impacted test scores.”

To qualify for the grant, school districts that were nominated then submitted a grant application describing their STEM-focused project. Grow Rural Education’s Farmer Advisory Council, consisting of approximately 30 farmer leaders from across the country, reviewed the finalist applications and selected the winning school districts, including Churubusco Jr./Sr. High School.

Since Grow Rural Education began in 2011, it has awarded more than $18 million to more than 1,000 schools in rural communities across the United States.

“We are very appreciative of our local farmers who nominated our school district to apply for this generous award from the Bayer Fund,” Hile said.

The America Farmers Grow Communities program is also reviewing applications for the chance to nominate a local non-profit for an award of $2,500.

“Indiana farmers have directed more than $2 million to a variety of nonprofits, such as food banks, volunteer fire and EMS departments, among countless others, said Lori Shachtman, on behalf of the program.

Farmers can enter for a chance to win online at or by calling 1-877-267-3332 toll-free.

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