$30K awarded in Excellence in Education program grants

DOVER — Approximately $30,000 will support workforce development in schools through the first grants awarded via the Excellence in Education program, with the program still accepting late applications.

The program — driven by community partners Greater Kent Committee, Kent Economic Partnership and the Delaware State News — officially launched last year to foster workforce development initiatives in Kent County.

“The development of a strong workforce is the foundational aspect of a strong local economy,” said Michael Petit de Mange, Levy Court administrator. “Whenever we can bolster the workforce and promote it, and also shine a bright light on the great things that are happening, it builds confidence in the community and, in a real sense, it’s building the underpinnings of a strong local economy.”

Applications were accepted through Sept. 1, but, understanding schools were dealing with a new climate opening under coronavirus, Tonda Parks, Delaware State News director of Event Marketing & Community Outreach, said the group would consider late applicants.
Multiple grants will be awarded, Ms. Parks said.

Shelly Cecchett, executive director of the Greater Kent Committee, said beyond helping create opportunities in central Delaware, the hope is to entice those within the community.

“The schools and these organizations are critical partners,” she said. “The ultimate goal is to try to educate people so they want to stay here in central Delaware and continue to work.”

COVID-19 has made its impact on business and education since the first cases were reported in March and its influence has been felt in the applications, Ms. Cecchett said.

“School districts are doing what businesses are doing also and they’re pivoting and they’re recognizing the fact that they need to figure out how to operate in our under this current environment,” she said.

Excellence in Education is interested in applicants that confront enhancing the workforce throughout the region, educating and broadening perspectives and economic and community development.

The program is especially interested in ready to work programs, apprenticeships, certification programs, with special consideration to be given to programs that help close occupational shortages, such as health technologies, construction, transportation occupations; warehouse & logistics, education, computer, business, healthcare support, architecture, sales, maintenance and more.

Since launching last November, the grant has sought to generate funds from the community to support the initiatives put forward by the schools.

Kent County Levy Court committed $25,000, and an additional $10,000 from businesses was accrued as part of the fundraising.
“We’re of course very excited for the support that we receive from the community for this program,” Ms. Parks said.

This will be the first year the grant will honor educators, which Mr. Petit de Mange called exciting.

“We know from our experience with partnerships that we can get a lot more done together than we can do separately,” he said. “This is just another example of community, and parties within the community, coming together around a great idea and making it happen. For all those reasons, I think everyone here sees this as a great thing for Kent County, and for central Delaware and we look forward to its future.”