LOS LUNAS—The Facebook Community Action Grants program announced last week 15 different Valencia and Bernalillo County businesses received thousands of dollars in grant money to fund programs focusing on technology and STEM education.

“We hope to inspire students to get more involved in STEM careers, STEM pathways that will lead them to a STEM career field when they decide to graduate,” said Holli Davies, community development regional manager for Facebook. “Really, having the ability to share the Facebook priorities — using technology, getting the community connected online or offline, just building a sense of community around technology and STEM.”

According to Davies, the grant applications were reviewed by a board of community members and awarded to programs that exemplified three issues that Facebook determined to be critical needs in Valencia County: ability to use “power of technology” to provide benefit, connect people online or off, and improving or advancing STEM education.

“When we look at those three areas, we look at that lens to evaluate the applications that come through the process each year,” Davies said. “We have, as you can see, a number of very, very robust applicants that came through this year and a number of really incredible organizations and projects that we will be able to fund this year through that program.”

TNT Boxing received more than $12,000 through the Facebook Community Action Grants Program. The local organization will utilize the funding to continue their tutoring program and further their “education first, boxing is secondary” mission.

“Unfortunately, not everyone is equal at learning or getting the equal amount of attention that they need. So, we have always had that need of having to tutor our kiddos to get them either up to par or just to keep them scholastically where they are at,” said David Adame, a manager and head coach at T-N-T Boxing. “Some are overachievers who want to work harder and get better and that is cool, too.”

Adame said the goal of their organization is to not only allow boxing to be an outlet for youth in Valencia County but also focus on education by offering peer mentorship, tutoring and other classes.

“All of us have been in boxing or martial arts for the most part of our life and it’s what made a difference in a lot of our lives — I don’t want to say turned us around — and helped us to make us better people,” Adame said. “That is our main thing.”

He said the funding will go towards the tutoring program, internet services and a new projector and sound system.

Out of the 15 grant recipients, the School of Dreams Academy in Los Lunas received the largest chunk of funding at about $39,000. According to SODA Superintendent Michael Ogas, the money will go towards building a STEM lab that would be available to not only students but also their families and other members of the community.

“They are going to gear it towards entrepreneurship and having a place for parts of the community to utilize it,” Ogas said, adding that it will serve as a sort of maker’s space.

While the space will be available for use by all students, Ogas said that the focus for education will be at the elementary level.

“We’ve been pretty good on the math and science parts at the secondary level, but now that we have a full blown elementary school. We wanted to make sure to focus our STEAM model on that,” he said.

SODA focuses on STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — education, offering classes and programs on robotics, dance, music and filmmaking. According to Ogas, with the money they received through the Facebook Community Action Grant last year, the school is building up a filmmaking program that uses iPhone technology.

Facebook has been granting funding to community organizations since 2019 with more than $600,000 awarded according to Davies. Applications for the next year’s grants will come out in the fall of this year.

“This is one of our favorite programs that we get to offer every year,” Davies said. “We will be around for a long time supporting this community. We have the best interest of the community in mind and this is just one small way that we can give back.”

The full list of recipients include:

• All for Animals: $22,820; This grant will support upgraded field technology for animal control officers serving Valencia County.

• Belen Public Library: $9,900; This grant will fund virtual and hybrid programming to support the community’s use of technology for education, career readiness and daily life in our digital world.

• CASA Partners 4NMKids: $10,000; This technology grant will support Chromebooks that will be accessible to volunteers and CASA foster children.

• Community Wellness Council: $10,000; This grant will support the Council’s Resource Connector, a program designed to use the power of technology to address community mental health issues by connecting users to available resources.

• Explora Science Center & Children’s Museum of Albuquerque: $7,500; This grant will support Explora’s Community Science program, providing underserved and diverse pre-K to eighth grade Valencia County students with experiential STEAM learning with the goal of encouraging minority student participation and representation.

• Gil Sanchez Elementary School: 20,660; This grant will support Swivl smart cameras to elevate engagement for students and promote a flipped classroom concept, allowing for more targeted interaction with teachers.

• Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails: $10,000; This grant will support virtual and in-person STEM programs that provide opportunities for first-hand exploration in science to 100 girls of all ages in Valencia County.

• NM MESA: $10,000; This grant will support the organization’s goal to bridge the digital divide by creating a video campaign series to train students and teachers in digital media skills.

• Rural Education Advancement Program: $30,000; This grant will provide programs to motivate students to pursue college degrees and careers in STEM fields while offering educators the professional development and support needed to confidently lead this type of specialized STEM program.

• School of Dreams Academy Education Foundation: $39,737; This grant will create a STEM research hub to help provide equitable opportunities for all student populations to complete STEM research and become innovative, forward-thinking game-changers in the community.

• T-N-T Boxing and Mentoring Club: $12,273; This grant will further support the computer lab for tutoring and homework assistance, classes and programming, and to provide a safe place to do homework and connect with mentors, coaches and community partners.

• United Way of Central New Mexico: $6,000; This grant will support teacher mentors, video interviews with employers, employer video partnerships, and increased teacher and employer connections. This will also help scale the 2020 Student Career Video Challenge.

• Valencia Literacy: $10,000; This technology grant will help create virtual platforms that can be utilized by students on their smartphones or other devices. This grant will also use technology to allow literacy tutors to assist parents in becoming their children’s first and most important teachers.

• Valencia Shelter Services: $10,300; This grant will help to implement workshops for clients and educate them on how to interact with the services available to assist with their needs, such as public networks and access to a laptop.

• Wilderwood Equine Therapy and Rescue: $1,100; This grant will help autistic teens and adults live strong, independent lives and will offer a nine-month curriculum with focus on STEM careers.

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.