A new foundation set up to award small grants to K-12 students in Southeastern Washington started operating Thursday after its launch was boosted by a sizable donation.
The Dream Builder's Educational Foundation is a nonprofit group established by Educational Service District 123, which encompasses 23 school districts from Othello to the Oregon border, and from Prosser to Idaho.
All 60,000 students in that region can start applying for grants to further their studies starting in January.
There are few prerequisites for the grants, said Judy Reault, the foundation's co-director. "It's just a simple application process online," she said. "We've kept it very open."
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The grants could go to students who want to attend a science camp but don't know how to pay for it, for example. Or music students who would like to enter a contest but can't afford the entrance fees.
"Those are some of the things we kept coming up with," Reault said. "But really, we hope we're surprised frequently by students' ideas."
Unlike other programs that target mainly high school students or college applicants, no minimum age is set for the grants.
There's also no minimum amount and so far, no upper limit, although one likely will be set.
"We have to determine what the interest in the program is and see if there needs to be a limit," said Bruce Hawkins, the ESD's superintendent. "One number that's been toyed around with is $500."
The idea is to pay for individual students, not large school-wide projects. The foundation especially will try to reach younger students, as they're less likely to look for outside help.
The foundation hopes school districts will designate a contact person at each school who keeps an ear out for students who may need help.
One donor jump-started the group Thursday. Washington River Protection Solutions, a Hanford contractor, gave $50,000 to the foundation.
"It's good to see a program that's not just about basic survival, but forward thinking," said Jerry Holloway, company spokesman.
The website for grant applications will be up in January. A link will be posted on the ESD's website, esd123.org.