Local businesses are teaming up to fill education funding gaps for elementary school students in the Maple School District. The Cash for Classrooms program, funded by Lake Effect Dance of Poplar, Lori Ronchi’s American Family Insurance agency and Lake Effect Construction, provides $250 grants for projects that promote education and a love of learning.

Lake Effect Dance owner Anna Haskins launched the program last year after hearing parent concerns.

“I wanted to be able to give the teachers what they needed and wanted in order to make their classroom a success,” Haskins said. “We love our community and we want our teachers to know how much they are truly appreciated and valued in our district.”

Ronchi was quick to join in.

“I know there are a lot of people who do school supply drives for students, but I thought it was awesome Anna is providing back to the teachers and classrooms directly,” she said. “With budget cuts, failed referendums, etc. I thought it was such a great program that I have been a donator both years.”

Six classrooms received grants last year. The money was used to purchase Kindles, an iPad, tools for a literacy station and more.

Kalyn Bonnelly’s second-grade students invested the funds in three tablets.

“The tablets have educational applications that coincide with our district’s curriculum,” Bonnelly said. “The additional technology in my classroom gave students the opportunity to work at their own pace and guide their own learning.”

She’s already started alerting fellow teachers to this year’s grant program. It is amazing, Bonnelly said, to teach in a school that has such great support from local businesses and the community.

Grant applications are a collaborative effort, Haskins said. Students write the grant with help from their teachers and the principal signs off on it.

“This way all levels are involved and all levels are excited about the idea,” Haskins said. “The students learn leadership through facilitating this request and the value of working for something they want.”

Last year’s inaugural program was a success.

“We loved hearing the stories from teachers and students about the impact that the program has made in just one short year,” Haskins said. “I can't wait to hear how it will impact even more teachers and students this year.”

Haskins said applications will be sent out to district administrators, who will pass them on to teachers. Or contact Lake Effect Dance directly at anna@lakeeffectdance.com, 218-343-9230 or on Facebook.