Donors Impact Student Success
Students in Craig Reuter’s science classes aren’t having a textbook learning experience.
That’s immediately apparent upon entering Reuter’s classroom at Central DeWitt High School along old Highway 30: Live amphibians, reptiles, fish and a Dutch rabbit named Missy share the classroom with students; gel electrophoresis devices allow students to separate DNA sequencing in mock crime investigations.
These opportunities and many others are afforded to students in the Central Community School District thanks to annual grants from the Central Community Education Foundation, a fund held by the LincolnWay Community Foundation. Each year, the Education Foundation gives about $45,000 to teachers in the district to enhance curriculum in all subjects. Over the last 25 years, more than $570,000 has been granted to Central teachers.
In Reuter’s classroom, students study anatomy with help from a skeleton they fondly refer to as Henry. Henry is named for Henry Pelham, whose math and science endowment has funded many of class’ scientific devices and teaching tools — and the animals’ aquariums.
“It’s awesome to see students’ ‘a-ha’ moments,” says the science teacher. “You can teach, but without these experiences, they are not going to be able to relate to what you’re teaching.” For example, each aquarium is student-run, making youth responsible for care, cleaning and observation.
“It’s more than just teaching about biomes and animals,” Reuter explains. “It teaches responsibility, cooperation between group members and budgeting.”
Pelham, who was born on a farm outside Clinton, served in the U.S. Navy. He used math skills to solve real-world problems, sometimes taking as long as two hours to solve one while doing calculations by hand.
“He wanted to make sure kids knew their math and science,” says Pat Henricksen, executive director of the LincolnWay Community Foundation. Pelham hoped his gift would enable local youth to follow their dreams toward careers in math and science.
The experiences the Pelham grants have helped provide students are invaluable. “The impact to learning is phenomenal,” Reuter says. “Henry’s passion went beyond his life. It’s long-lasting.”
The generosity of Pelham and others is also helping draw residents back to the community. “Alumni are coming back to teach,” says Henricksen. “That is such a nice tribute. It’s wonderful to see.”