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Adding to a School’s Worth
by Jill Lufrano
Mar 06, 2012 | 2766 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/John Byrne - Dilworth STEM Academy Principal Laura Petersen is given a check for $10,000 by Ryan Dolan of Dolan Automotive, along with the school’s students who helped garner the votes on Facebook to win the money. The school plans to use the money to build a native Nevada outdoor habitat in its courtyard to enhance students’ learning about the environment.
Tribune/John Byrne - Dilworth STEM Academy Principal Laura Petersen is given a check for $10,000 by Ryan Dolan of Dolan Automotive, along with the school’s students who helped garner the votes on Facebook to win the money. The school plans to use the money to build a native Nevada outdoor habitat in its courtyard to enhance students’ learning about the environment.
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SPARKS — Dilworth STEM Academy burst into cheers Tuesday when Ryan Dolan of Dolan Automotive awarded its principal a $10,000 check.

In true modern technological fashion, students at the school won the money by convincing friends, classmates and family to vote for them through Facebook. The funds will be used by Dilworth students to redesign the school’s courtyard into a native Nevada habitat and outdoor classroom that will help develop their perceptions and values about the environment.

“A few weeks ago I noticed that we got to the second round,” said Principal Laura Petersen. “We were very excited. When we got back here, we were in the running.”

Formerly called Dilworth Middle School, Dilworth now is a public academy focused on teaching teens science, math, technology and engineering.

Within three days, and through a major grassroots campaign, the school was able to garner 1,200 additional votes on the Dolan Automotive Facebook site. This put Dilworth and its proposal to be granted $10,000 for a school upgrade project in the top three among 24 other northern Nevada schools.

“It was completely incredible,” Petersen told the student body, assembled on the wooden bleachers inside the school’s gymnasium. “We are doing right by each other. It was a real challenge.”

Dolan Automotive’s $30,000 School Upgrade Project pit 25 northern Nevada schools against each other in a Facebook contest. One elementary, one middle and one high school each were awarded $10,000.

Each school entered a detailed project description explaining how the funds would be used, along with a detailed budget.

Dilworth garnered 2,133 total votes in two rounds; Fernley Intermediate, the elementary school winner, received a total of 4,151 votes; and Coral Academy, the high school winner, took in 2,783 votes.

Dilworth’s winning statement to Dolan Automotive read: “We are in the first year of becoming a STEM Academy, which means our curriculum incorporates science, technology, engineering and math to insure our students are career and college ready. This quarter, students are working in teams of four to redesign our courtyard into a native Nevada habitat. It will not only be inspired and created by students, but will also be an outdoor classroom and a place students will go to learn and develop perceptions and values about their environment. They will present their courtyard design to community panelists who will choose the final design that they will build in the coming months. The mission of our school yard habitat and outdoor classroom is to get students to experience nature by creating a natural space where students will observe, draw, write, think and question. If designed and managed properly, our habitat will provide students with a powerful example of land conservation and stewardship. We hope to initiate our plan as soon as the design has been chosen by our panelists.”

Teacher Geraldine Lemus-Yip said she has no problem teaching her students ecosystems when they are actually creating them.

“They’re going to get to create native Nevada habitat, discovering the live and non-living factors in the habitat and creating something,” she said.

Students will also bring in native wildlife into the area.

“They are excited, motivated,” Lemus-Yip said. “They know that this is going to be protected for years to come.”

With the $10,000, the school will be able to fast-track the program to build a courtyard project.

Seventy-five four-person teams of seventh-graders will come up with original ideas using native plants, Petersen said. Once the projects are done, they will be judged internally and narrowed down to the final few. At that time, Dolan will be invited back, along with community members, gardening and outdoor experts who will choose the final design. The design must include something to do with Dolan Automotive, as part of the contest, Petersen said.

“This will give us the funds to do it immediately,” Petersen said. “The seventh-graders who build it this summer, as eight graders will be able to use it next year.”

For Ryan Dolan, Dilworth was special.

“This is close to my heart,” he said. “My mother taught here many years ago. I grew up here, my family grew up here, we went to school in northern Nevada. We value education. It is very, very important to us. We wanted to give back to people that needed it — the teachers, the administrators and the schools, with all the budget cuts and everything.”

For more information on Dolan Automotive Group, visit www.DolanAutoGroup.com.
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