SOMONAUK – Somonauk High School’s ag education program is the recipient of a $10,000 America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education grant through the Monsanto Fund.
Ag teacher Toni Saso, school administrators and several ag students were on hand to receive the grant Tuesday, Aug. 27 at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur before returning to Somonauk to share the good news at an open house. The ag education program at Somonauk High School also serves students from Leland and Sandwich, who leave their home schools to attend class in Somonauk.
“With reductions in state funding, we need to seize every opportunity,” Superintendent Dawn Green said at the open house.
Saso said she already has used the grant funds, which were specifically to be used to improve math and science, to purchase 36 laptops for student use.
“This changes the classroom dynamic,” Saso said. “Ag education is about so much more than production agriculture. It’s leadership, it’s communication.”
Saso sought the grant after Somonauk was nominated for it by several area farmers.
“I don’t know how many nominated us, but I know it was more than just people from Somonauk, Leland and Sandwich. Farmers from all over DeKalb County helped make this happen,” Saso said.
Green said this is the third grant Saso has obtained this year for a total of $14,000. She used a previous grant to attend a program in Minnesota, making Somonauk one of only four schools in the state to receive national certification. The certification includes a curriculum that crosses into the areas of science, math and English.
“Somonauk needed a more rigorous course to replace the freshman-level course,” Saso said. The new laptops make implementing the new curriculum easier, she said.
“These [laptops] make learning more fun and easier to share information,” said Stephen Riskedal, a junior from Leland.
“[Saso] is taking our students in the direction they need to go,” Green said.