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Aera in the Community Oct 13, 2021

A focus on innovation and reading for students in Ventura

The Ventura Education Partnership (VEP) receives increased requests to support efforts to rebuild connection between students and teachers in Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) classrooms following a challenging school year.

Every year, the Ventura Education Partnership provides grants to local schools in support of innovative ideas and literacy in the classroom. As the partnership wrapped up its fall grant cycle, it noticed a common thread among applications – the desire to rebuild the connection between students and teachers after a challenging year of distance learning.

“We received very few requests for assistance with technology or science programs,” said Madhu Bajaj, vice president of VEPGrants, regarding the applications this year. “More were for innovative reading projects and some fantastic garden-based education programs to connect students to academic skills through outdoor learning that also prioritizes health, wellness and community.”

A young child pointing at words on a book, concentrating on learning how to read

Every year, you can also expect to see Trisha Botten volunteering to review and score dozens of grant applications on behalf of the partnership. She’s done this for six years, finding joy in seeing creative ideas become reality with the help of the VEPGrants.

“It’s so important for us to support education in our communities especially when budgets of the past have not covered basic expenses and teachers are using their own funds to purchase items for their classrooms,” said Botten, a logistics associate at Aera-Ventura. “Literacy is a game-changer for children – from learning about the basics to helping them understand worldwide issues or concerns. It also can provide a moment of escape into worlds that students create with their own imaginations.”

Over the past 10 years, the partnership has provided more than $1.3 million in small grants to local teachers that are making a big impact on learning with the support of donations from local organizations and companies like Aera Energy and the Rotary Club of Ventura. More than 60 recipients of $1,000 grants are expected to be announced later this month.

“We kept in mind that having strong reading skills is particularly critical for young students as they cope with this pandemic,” said Debbie Golden, co-president of the Ventura Education Partnership. “These skills are the foundational building blocks for the rest of their education. Aera’s funding will make a difference in the lives of our students forever.”

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DID YOU KNOW? Aera Energy is a three-time recipient of the Forbes America’s Midsize Employer List, placing ninth in the 2022 ranking and securing its spot in the top ten midsize companies to work for in the United States.

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