Updated: March 22, 2013 10:28AM
BURLINGTON — When farmer Dan Klein of Burlington learned that he could select two local non-profit organizations to each receive a $2,500 donation, he chose Central High School’s Future Farmers of America Chapter and Central Burlington FFA Alumni.
“When I was a Central High School student, the school did not have an FFA chapter,” Klein said. “When I went for an agricultural education at Western Illinois University, I gained a better understanding of the FFA. Hopefully, these donations will help keep the FFA going strong.”
Klein is one of the many winners of the third-annual America’s Farmers Grow Communities program sponsored by the Monsanto Fund. Farmers in 1,271 eligible counties in 39 states signed up for the opportunity to win a $2,500 donation to their favorite non-profit organization. The donation was doubled for counties that were affected by the recent drought.
Dezeri DeRaedt, owner of DeRaedt Seed Corp. in the Burlington-Plato area, represented Monsanto when the two checks were presented during the Central Community Unit School District 301 board meeting at Central High on Tuesday night.
DeRaedt is a licensee for Monsanto’s genetically modified Roundup Ready soy, which was first commercialized in the United States in 1996. Due to its genetic makeup, Roundup Ready continues to flourish after a field is sprayed while the weeds around it are killed, he said.
“I started my seed company in 1978,” DeRaedt said. “It’s been a good business. I got involved with Monsanto when they developed Roundup Ready. They spent millions developing it. There is a royalty fee farmers pay to use the product. Monsanto is now giving back to the farming community.”
The Monsanto Fund will invest more than $5 million in rural America this year through the America’s Farmers Grow Communities program. DeRaedt said that more than 60,000 farmers participated in the program. One farmer was selected from each county.
Central High Principal Matthew Haug and Central High teacher Ryan Robinson accepted the $2,500 check along with Central High FFA members Susie Thompson, Marissa Chapa, Alyse Nagel, Haleigh Graham, Nathan Mann, Kevin Mattes and Mitch Dieckhoff.
Robinson said Central High’s FFA chapter was started in 2008. It currently has 93 high school student members.
Central Burlington FFA Alumni, formed two years ago, now has 15 members.
“When we formed our chapter, we wanted to get additional funds so that we could give out an annual scholarship,” said Mike Thompson, the alumni group’s president. “We will be meeting to decide what to do with the $2,500 grant.”
In other news, D301 Superintendent Todd Stirn announced that five of the district’s seven schools have received the Illinois State Board of Education’s Academic Excellence Award.
The five schools are Prairie View Grade School, Elgin; Lily Lake Grade School; Central Middle School, Burlington; Prairie Knolls Middle School, Elgin, and Country Trails Elementary School, Elgin.
According to the state board, in order for schools serving grades eight and below to receive the award, 90 percent of their students must have met or exceeded state standards in both reading and mathematics for the three most recent school years.
As a final note, the D301 Board approved a joint agreement to continue its membership with the Fox Valley Career Center in Maple Park.
“Six school districts support the Fox Valley Career Center,” Stirn said. “By pooling our resources, we are able to offer more programs. We have around 50 of our students going there. Two of the most popular programs are fire science and welding.”