The Grants in Place Fellows Program: History & Celebrations

August 10, 2023 |
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Rural Schools Collaborative is excited to announce a new national investment in rural place-based education projects. The Patterson Family Foundation is a family-led foundation extending the legacy of Neal and Jeanne Patterson. The Patterson Family Foundation strives to help lift up rural communities through health care, education, economic opportunity, and beyond. We are incredibly grateful for their investment in rural vitality and enacting agency in young kids, through place-based education classroom projects. In honor of this new partnership, we took a look back on how the Grants in Place Program came to be, and all of those who have made the program a success.

2017 MN GIP Recipient

Early Days - GrassRoots Support for Place-Based Projects

The Grants in Place Program was first announced by Rural Schools Collaborative in April of 2015. The program’s mission is, and always has been, to award classroom grants to rural teachers interested in carrying out an innovative place-based education project with their students. Rural Schools Collaborative believes place-based education is an essential approach for rural classrooms, as the model purposefully connects learning and communities to increase student engagement, academic outcomes, and community impact. The Grants in Place Program awards rural teachers across the country who are practicing place-based education in their classrooms.

The inaugural year of the Grants in Place Program was made possible by initial funding support from the John and Mary Cooper Charitable Fund, Rural Conservation Fund, the South Dakota Innovation Lab, and the Rural Schools Partnership at Community Foundation of the Ozarks. After an overwhelming response, and an incredible amount of viable applications - the Founding Board Members of RSC began outreach for additional support. Successfully, what started as a $10,000 commitment grew to more than $30,000 in total funding. With the additional funding, Rural Schools Collaborative’s inaugural Grants in Place program was proudly able to fund 35 innovative place-based education projects from seven different states.

The inaugural 2015-2016 Grants In Place recipients’ projects were just the beginning - community members and change makers alike began to see the real value of supporting student learning; which is embedded in the community and serves a public purpose. Thanks to the groundbreaking work of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ Rural Schools Partnership and the success of the 2015-2016 Grants in Place recipients projects, 22 funders and individual donors came together to invest more than $105,000 in rural place-based education initiatives and projects the following year. The combined efforts funded 33 total projects serving 54 rural communities, and supported the good work of more than 60 teachers from seven states. The success and belief in these rural teacher grants was the catalyst for this program’s continuation.

The Grants in Place program continued to grow through the years; both in committed donors and in grant making. By 2017, more than 25 funders and individual donors came together to invest $136,000 in rural place-based education initiatives and projects. The 2017-18 Grants in Place program successfully awarded 35 projects serving as many as 45 rural communities throughout 11 states. In 2018 the combined efforts of committed funding organizations and donors provided direct contributions which amounted to more than $139,000 in total funding. The 2018-19 Grants in Place program supported 39 place-based or community-centered projects serving as many as 71 rural communities in 14 states.

Ann Schulte awarding 2015 N.CA GIP Recipient


The Grants in Place program continued to evolve as Rural Schools Collaborative grew and restructured. Under the leadership of the Northern California Hub Contact, Ann Schulte, the inaugural Selection Committee chose eight Grants in Place Fellows all serving rural communities within RSC’s, at the time, nine Regional Hubs. Each Fellow received a grant to support the proposed place-based project, a professional development presentation, and an honorarium for the educator.

Local Philanthropy Catalyses Grants in Place: Celia B. Godsil Fellows

Mark and Celia Godsil


The Celia B. Godsil Fellows program was installed in 2020 through a partnership with the Galesburg Community Foundation. The program was made possible by the generous support of Celia and Mark Godsil, in honor of Celia's career as a public school teacher and their belief in the importance of classroom teachers to rural communities. The nine inaugural Celia B. Godsil Fellows were announced in 2020 and carried out exceptional action research place-based education projects throughout the 2020-2021 school year, within RSC’s Regional Hub states.

Spanning over three years, The Celia B. Godsil Grants in Place Fellows program awarded a total of 34 rural educators to carry out place-based education projects throughout their various communities. Teachers and students alike carried out initiatives such as, addressing water contamination in their community, adding locally sustainable gardens to improve the pollinators in their area, bringing history to their town to allow residents and visitors to appreciate the historical richness, to bringing awareness of food waste in their local community and addressing the teacher shortage. The vast array of projects are all rooted in their ability to enact positive change in their communities - and, allowing students to be the leaders of this change.


Making the Case: Investing in Rural Places and Rural Futures

The Patterson Family Foundation deeply understands the significance of rural community philanthropy, and the investment of rural schools and teachers. It is from our shared values, where our partnership with the Patterson Family Foundations stems. Their significant contribution will continue to propel the Grants in Place Program mission and help us make an even greater impact in rural communities. This partnership represents a significant milestone for our organization and reinforces our commitment to enrich the lives of rural teachers and students.

Rural Schools Collaborative is proud to have surpassed one million dollars in outgoing grants to rural communities. RSC is committed to seeing the potential in our teachers, students and communities! Our work is not done - the need to continue to support rural communities is at an all time high. While nominal classroom grants can create a ripple effect, it is important to share this wave far and wide. We are so thankful for our partners, and are excited to grow the Grants in Place Program in the coming years.


We invite you to explore our roster of historical Grants in Place projects:

The Grants in Place Fellows Program is open to innovative rural teachers within our Regional Hub areas. The Grants in Place Fellows Program accepts applications annually from late summer to early fall. Visit out Grants in Place Fellows page for more details.

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