Two Farmington schools receive $1,000 grants from NM credit union

Funds will pay for audio equipment, online reading program

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Heights Middle School in Farmington has been awarded a $1,000 grant to purchase new audio equipment for its band room.
  • The enrichED grant program is a project of the US Eagle Federal Credit Union.
  • This year, 10 schools were awarded grants out of the 56 applications that were received.
  • This is the second year a Farmington school has been part of the program.

FARMINGTON — A pair of $1,000 grants have been awarded to schools in the Farmington Municipal School District by US Eagle Federal Credit Union as part of a program designed to enhance safety protocols and address unique circumstances brought on by the pandemic.

The credit union — which has locations scattered throughout the state, including one in Farmington — launched its enrichED grant program last year with an eye toward funding classroom projects that teachers otherwise would have had to pay for themselves, according to Nadine Buerger, the credit union's public relations and community engagement manager.

This year, 10 schools were awarded grants out of the 56 applications that were received.

The Farmington recipients were Heights Middle School and Esperanaza Elementary School. The Heights grant will pay for a voice-amplification system for the school's band classroom, while the Esperanza grant will cover the cost of an online reading program.

This is the second year a Farmington school has been part of the program. Last year, a kindergarten class at Country Club Elementary School earned a $1,000 grant for a STEM program it initiated.

Buerger said those submitting applications were asked to provide a summary of the project they had in mind, as well as a budget for it and an estimate of how many students would be impacted by its implementation. A philanthropy committee at the credit union evaluated all the applications based on several factors — including need, how quickly the project could be put together and geographic diversity — and the winners were announced on Oct. 15. Schools in Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Torrance and Sandoval counties also were awarded grants.

Cody Jackson, the band director at Heights Middle School, made a successful case for one of the grants by focusing on the school's band room, which features two nonfunctioning speakers that have no capability for voice amplification. Teachers have been providing instruction while wearing a mask and face shield, making it challenging for students to receive vocal instruction, according to a press release from the credit union.

Jackson said that problem was made worse by the size of the band room, which is also used by orchestra and choral students, approximately 400 in all. He said the room is shaped like an octagon and extends 38 feet from wall to wall with 22-foot ceilings. That made it difficult for him to be heard even under normal circumstances, Jackson said, adding that when the noise from instruments is factored in, it's even harder.

Jackson put the Heights proposal together and submitted the application. He said he was elated when he found out a few days ago his school had been named one of the winners.

"I was so excited when it came across my email," he said. "I kind of jumped out of my chair."

The grant will pay for the purchase of two speakers and a wireless microphone that will be used to amplify the teacher's voice, making it easier for students to hear. The system will affect approximately 400 music students at the school, the release states.

Jackson said his school could have used the new equipment even if the pandemic hadn't happened. He envisions the school making good use of it for decades into the future.

"That's exactly right," he said. "It has its most immediate use during COVID, but in the long range, we can use it for years to come.

Farmington's Esperanza Elementary School has earned a $1,000 grant to help cover the cost of an online reading program.

Esperanza officials will use their grant for a reading program that assists students with fluency. It also will provide for the purchase of materials that students can use at home in a hands-on fashion, providing them with an alternative to their computers. It is estimated the program will serve 70 students.

Buerger said US Eagle officials hope to see more schools apply for the grants next year, especially those outside the Albuquerque area. She said 111 applications were received in the program's first year, so the 56 applications submitted this year represented a considerable reduction.

Buerger speculated that the demands of resuming instruction under remote-learning or hybrid models may have prevented many schools from applying for the program this year, but she hopes that trend does not continue.

Applications for the program are due shortly after the resumption of classes each fall, Buerger said.

"This is something we want to continue doing," she said. "We've hoping to receive more applications, especially from the San Juan (County) area."

The schools that did receive a check this year likely will receive their checks within the next two weeks, she said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.