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Posted: January 17, 2023

Sen. Lujan Announces $275K Grant for South Valley Schools

Funds will help three schools launch agriculture STEM pathway.

U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján visited Rio Grande High on Tuesday to announce a $275,000 grant to help three South Valley schools with their efforts to launch a theme-based agriculture STEM K-12 grade pathway. The magnet program, called Sustaining the Future, would be implemented at Mountain View Elementary, Polk Middle School and Rio Grande High. Students would be able to learn coding and attain certificates from partnering universities in such areas as drone flying, agricultural sustainability, clean energy technology and sustainable farming.

During his visit to Rio Grande High, Sen. Luján was welcomed by school staff, district administrators and school board President Yolanda Montoya-Cordova. He seized on the opportunity to talk to students. Sen. Luján secured the $275,000 in federal funding through the omnibus bill approved by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in December. The appropriation will essentially provide seed money to help set a foundation at the three schools for the program. Specifically, the funding will help the APS Office of Innovation to implement national training in professional development in inquiry-based instruction, STEM education and innovative technology. APS is pursuing additional funding for the program.

“I think they’ve got a great plan,” APS Superintendent Scott Elder said of the effort underway at the three schools to launch the theme-based agriculture pathway. “I think it’s going to be really cool and it is really cool to have a U.S. senator at Rio Grande High School. We’ve been working to expand these types of offerings, and it’s great to see it coming to fruition.”

The project is aimed at increasing diversity, providing an innovative curriculum, building leadership qualities and fostering family community partnerships, in addition to academic excellence. Mountain View Elementary, Polk Middle and Rio Grande High already have established roots with community organizations that include the Gutierrez-Hubble House, South Valley Economic Development, South Valley Growers Market and Bernalillo County Open Space.

This is the second K-12 grade pathway APS is adding to its school choice portfolio. APS in 2017 established Engineering the Future, which focuses on engineering and STEM, at Mission Elementary, Garfield Middle School and Valley High School.