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A University endowment to support Providence public schools disbursed a second round of grants Wednesday to three elementary schools, as fundraisers seek to build a $10 million permanent fund.

Three grants totaling nearly $30,000 were allocated by the Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence, created in 2007 to support local public schools in response to the 2006 report of the University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice.

The latest round of awards will fund musical education and band programs at Windmill Elementary School and Carl G. Lauro Elementary School and will support computer workstations and software updates at Martin Luther King Jr. School, said Hanna Rodriguez-Farrar '87 MA'90 PhD'09. Rodriguez-Farrar is a member of the Corporation's board of trustees and a founding member of the committee to oversee the fund, who also serves as assistant to President Ruth Simmons.

Each elementary school will receive about $10,000.

"Our main goal was to get money to students," Rodriguez-Farrar said. "It's right at the front line of student learning."

She said the committee that oversees the fund — which is made up of three members of the Corporation — aims to support projects that affect a wide range of students by providing direct access to educational programs otherwise threatened by budgetary restraints.

The University intends to raise $10 million for the fund, though it only has about $1.5 million in hand to date.

Rodriguez-Farrar said the committee considers grant proposals for initiatives with the greatest long-term impact for students. The most recent round of grants reflects this goal because the previous funding for these types of programs has "been cut big time in school budgets," she said.

"There's something about the human soul that speaks to music and poetry," Rodriguez-Farrar said. "Replacing instruments is really a long-term investment."

She added that the newly created computer workstations will provide similar benefits by supporting a literacy program and allowing students and teachers to work together effectively.

Last May, the committee awarded a $118,000 grant to purchase graphing calculators to all secondary school students in Providence.

Despite the recent round of grant proposals submitted by schools across the city, Rodriguez-Farrar said the University is still looking to increase the visibility of the fund.
"One of the things that we're looking to do is get more applications," she said. "The committee would really like to see a lot more coming from the teachers and the schools."

She said part of the problem may be the size of the grants the fund looks to make — many teachers who want to fund smaller projects, such as new desks in the classroom, are daunted by proposals for larger awards.

As a result, Rodriguez-Farrar said the committee might consider offering smaller grants in the future to encourage more teachers to apply.

Despite the fund's success since its inception three years ago, Rodriguez-Farrar said she hopes to support more educational initiatives in Providence that would address "some of those gaps" created by the city's struggling economy, such as cuts to physical education programs.

"It's not just $10,000 for crayons," she said. "Hopefully, bigger things will happen going forward."



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