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Northwest Aurora Rotary’s $10,000 grant to Riverpoint Academy boosts science lab, two-way relationship

Bob Lombard, left, a member of the Spokane Aurora Northwest Rotary Club, and several students at Riverpoint Academy assemble a cabinet at the school. (Riverpoint Academy / Courtesy photo)
Bob Lombard, left, a member of the Spokane Aurora Northwest Rotary Club, and several students at Riverpoint Academy assemble a cabinet at the school. (Riverpoint Academy / Courtesy photo)

The science lab at Riverpoint Academy north of Spokane got a boost recently from a $10,000 grant from the Spokane Aurora Northwest Rotary.

Riverpoint Academy is a choice school in the Mead School District that focuses on science, engineering, technology and math. Much of the learning the students do is hands-on and the lab was sorely in need of proper tables and cabinets, said club administrator Mary Ann Dalessi. “They didn’t have much furniture in there,” she said.

The grant happened largely because of the relationship created between the school and the club years ago. The club asked students to create a website for the Lilac Century and Family Fun Ride that happens every spring and the students also used a drone to create video footage of the race, Dalessi said.

Businesses know that the school uses hands-on, project-based learning and the school frequently gets requests for assistance like that, said Riverpoint Principal Moleena Harris. “That actually happens pretty regularly,” Harris said.

The partnership grew from there, and the Rotary group even helped finance their yearbook, Dalessi said. “We’ve been collaborating for a long time,” she said.

Rotary groups are allowed to give grants up to $5,000, and the grants can be matched dollar-for-dollar by Rotary’s District 5080, which includes Spokane. Spokane Aurora Northwest Rotary hadn’t given out grants for years before now, Dalessi said.

“The club can’t remember the last time they wrote a grant,” she said. “Why not? Half of it is free.”

Harris said the Rotary group invited her to apply for the grant. “We would have never known about it,” she said. “We were able to customize our request.”

The school’s equipment and furniture is often donated or repurposed, and there’s no budget for new furniture, Harris said. “Our science lab was definitely needing a face-lift,” she said.

It was a natural fit to select Riverpoint Academy to receive the grant, Dalessi said. “They had been such a good partner with us, we thought it would be a good way to give back to the community,” she said.

The grant paid for tables, rolling cabinets, shelving and a bank of stationary cabinets. The day the furniture arrived a group from the Rotary Club went to the school to help put everything together.

“The kids and the members worked together to unpack the furniture and put it together,” Dalessi said. “That was fun.”

Harris said the new furniture and equipment brings the science lab into the 21st century and allows more experiments and collaboration. “All of our shelves were open shelving, but these big steel cabinet doors with locks just allows us to handle our material the way we should be,” she said.

Harris said she’s grateful for both the grant and the ongoing partnership with the Rotary members, several of whom come to the school twice a week to tutor students. The club has also given scholarships to Riverpoint students. “It’s not very often a partnership stretches as long as this one has,” she said.

The Rotary members had a chance to tour the school once the new furniture and equipment was installed, Dalessi said. The tour took place during the sixth-grade information night, and the members were able to see how the school works. Students are expected to work on projects independently and in groups and need to be organized and self-motivated.

“I thought it was a unique concept,” Dalessi said of Riverpoint Academy. “I’m not sure I would be disciplined enough to function there. It seems like it works really well for creative type individuals.”

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