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New focus: LANL Foundation grants emphasize science education

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By Roger Snodgrass

The Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation awarded $3,548,107 to 95 institutions and nonprofit organizations in northern New Mexico.Under a new contract with the laboratory managers, the awards emphasize educational support in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The new cycle of grants were for educational enrichment, educational outreach and small educational outreach grants. They fund organizations serving education, learning and community development in Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Taos counties.“People were worried when we changed over, and we were kind of worried about whether there would be enough,” said Susan Herrera, LANL Foundation Director this morning, “but there are plenty of good people doing good work and we certainly need to get deeper into math and science. People stepped up and tackled the challenge.”More teachers were able to apply directly, the director added, because of the educational focus of the grants.“It’s easier for a teacher to do a grant without the burden of running a nonprofit,” Herrera said.Last year’s grants awarded in March went to more than twice as many organizations in northern New Mexico and included a variety of social programs, including after-school and early childhood providers and advocates, emergency assistance agencies, crisis and prevention organizations, health clinics, senior service programs, grief support groups, adoption assistance agencies and economic/workforce development initiatives.Guidelines for this cycle of grants reflected the priorities of the federal government, which defined “allowable costs” that could be paid by LANL’s contract with the Department of Energy.Educational enrichment programs aimed at improving educational quality accounted for the bulk of the awards, $2,729,654. They are driven by a formula derived from the proportion of lab and contract employees who live in each district.“We tell (the school districts) how much money they get and they come back with a proposal,” Herrera said.In addition, 47 grants totaling $785,453 went to competitive educational outreach programs that specifically address STEM education. These include teacher development; quality improvement efforts; “laboratory” school programs in partnership with regional colleges and universities; classroom resources including books, kits, instructional materials and supplies; state-of-the-art technology; and college preparatory workshops and higher education “bridge” programs, among other needs considered critical for STEM education.The competitive awards were evaluated by 12 members of the northern New Mexico community. The foundation announcement listed the following people, who served on the committee that made the final recommendations: James Berrigan (Los Alamos CDC), Mary Bissell (Peñasco High School/UC-Santa Barbara), Mary Jo Daniel (NM PED Math and Science Bureau), Sebastien Dartevelle (LANL), MaryAna Eames (Friends Forever Foundation/LANL), Janette Fischer (Mad Scientists’ Clubhouse), Jeffrey Franken (LANL Foundation), John Lucero (Efinity Educational Services), Liddie Martinez (Day & Zimmerman), Mihaela Popa-Simil (LANL Foundation), Sharon Shaffer (Santa Fe Public Schools) and Denise Thronas (LANL).