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A modest $300 grant helped students engage with community members through a mentorship program in Lisbon, North Dakota.

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Mighty oaks: How a small grant in North Dakota is making big connections between school and community

March 12, 2018

We are always amazed at the work accomplished by our Grants in Place award recipients, but a recent report from our Lisbon, North Dakota grantee Kerri Zahrbock really impressed us - it is amazing what one teacher can do with a small amount of resources and initiative. Ms. Zahrbock's $300 Community Mentorship grant focused on placing high school juniors and seniors with community leaders in areas that reflect each students' interests. Students were engaged in and learned through hands-on experiences provided by community mentors. Read about their unique experiences below! We love the direct connection to community in this Grants in Place project! Thanks to Ms. Zahrbock for this summary of fantastic stories.


Magi Brademeyer, high school junior, is currently mentoring under Lisbon Elementary second grade teacher, Kari Webb. Magi goes into the Elementary classroom three times a week for 45 minutes each time. Initially her role was that of an observer, but now she acts as another educator in the classroom, even garnishing the title of Miss. Brademeyer. She has developed rapport with the second graders being greeted with smiles, hugs and shouts of glee. The students enjoy their additional helper and anticipate her arrival. She has assisted students individually and in small groups on spelling, math and reading. In the large group setting, Magi engages the students with her storytelling, especially enthusiastic about reading them “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. This opportunity has reaffirmed Magi’s career choice in education. The skills, techniques, and enthusiasm Mrs. Webb brings into her classroom and shares with her students have been insight for Magi and she continues to learn through this valuable opportunity.


Lydia Lyons, Lisbon High School junior, currently is collaborating with and learning from individuals at our local City of Lisbon office. She is being mentored by our city auditor and economic development director as well as our city deputy auditor. Lydia has gained valuable business knowledge by learning about and working hands-on with building permits, time cards, and excel templates. Throughout this experience, she has learned about the collaboration needed between city officials and their ongoing communication. She has enjoyed getting to know the police officials and other locals who stop in.


Currently slated to attend college for an education degree, Connor Fitzgerald, high school senior, is pairing up with Lisbon Elementary fourth grade teacher, Richard Schmit. Connor has enjoyed getting to know the students, engaging and educating them, as well as observing and learning from the classroom teacher. Connor’s first class lesson focused on money and writing checks. In the picture below, Connor is shown team teaching with Mr. Schmit on the upcoming Winter Olympics. With an uncle working for the Olympics, Connor was able to engage students on a fun topic but also one that is relevant to current events. Connor describes his mentorship with Mr. Schmit as beneficial as he enjoyed the fun learning environment he provides for her students all while maintaining a controlled classroom.

In the fall of this year, a Career Day was held for Lisbon High School students in the 11 th grade. At this event, 29 local individuals, businesses or organizations came to lend their knowledge and expertise for interested students. Students were able to connect one-on-one or small group with a dental hygienist, agronomist, HVAC repair worker, journalist and more. These career professionals were predominately based out of Lisbon, or closely linked to our community, showcasing that our rural community has a variety of job opportunities available after high school and/or college.


Grants in Place is a modest grant program coordinated by the Rural Schools Collaborative, partner organizations and committed donors. To date, RSC and its partners have funded over a quarter-million dollars of place-based awards to innovative teachers.

The 2018-19 Grants in Place application is now open! Please click here to learn more about the application and regional requirements, and apply today!

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