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Washington Grade Center third-graders Heidi Clay and Avery Rogers read a book Thursday in Maria Ruiz-Blanco’s class. The Ada school district is applying for a grant from the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board, which is offering funds to every Oklahoma school district to meet their science, technology, engineering and math-related needs.

The Ada school district is applying for a grant that would help the school district expand its science, technology, engineering and math-related programs for students.

District officials will request funds totaling $7,338.87 from the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board, which recently announced a $2 million grant for STEM-related materials and equipment to every school district in the state. Districts are eligible for a portion of those dollars based on their enrollment numbers and their percentage of low-income students, and the money can go to any STEM-related items the district needs.

The funds would allow Ada City Schools to bolster its aviation program and launch other programs that would help students explore careers in other STEM-related fields, such as the oil and gas industry, Superintendent Mike Anderson said Wednesday.

“We feel like this is a chance for us to extend our programming, maybe in a similar fashion in what resulted with aviation,” he said. “Maybe now we’re able to provide awareness in the oil and gas industry and start developing programming in those areas.

“Aviation and oil and gas are the two biggest industries in the state of Oklahoma. And I think if we can take this money to kick-start a program in that area, we’ll find that we have the resources available right here in this community to do something very similar to what’s happened in our aviation program. So right now, that’s the plan.”

Moving Oklahoma forward

Leaders representing Oklahoma’s oil producers and royalty owners worked with the Legislature to form the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board in 1993, according to the organization’s website. The state’s natural-gas producers later joined the effort.

The organization was formed to use the strength of Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry to improve the lives of all Oklahomans through education and restoration, according to the website.

The organization is committed to cleaning up orphaned and abandoned well sites throughout the state, which is funded by voluntary contributions from producers and royalty owners, according to the website. The organization estimates that it has restored more than 15,000 well sites with the help of Oklahoma contractors.

Restoration is only one of the OERB’s activities, as the organization also provides STEM-related resources for Oklahoma’s teachers and students. The last time the OERB offered funds for STEM-related activities was in 2003, when the organization gave $1 million in grants to Oklahoma schools.

“After hearing feedback from the hundreds of teachers who attend our workshops, we felt that now is the time we find room in our budget for another grant of this nature,” OERB Chairman Danny Morgan said in a news release. “The OERB has always supported teachers and for the oil and natural gas industry’s future, it’s important we get students interested in math and science.”

A five-year rolling budget and conservative forecasts for oil and natural gas prices allowed the organization to pull money from its reserves to fund the $2 million STEM project, according to the news release.

Paula Kedy, executive director of academics and instruction for Ada Public Schools, said grant funds make it possible for Ada Public Schools to expand its career-related programs for students.

“These grants, like the OERB grant, give us a chance to help students make connections,” she said.

STEM coordinator Andrea Appleman said the new grant will help the district provide even more opportunities for students.

“Just being able to have the funds to be able to provide engaging and enriching activities for students in whatever area that they are studying at whatever grade level,” she said.

Eric Swanson can be contacted by email at eswanson@theadanews.com.

Eric Swanson is the City Hall and general assignment reporter for The Ada News. He spent 15 years working at the Dodge City Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kansas, before joining The Ada News’ staff in 2012.