Grant funding Powers Programs at Bitney Prep High

Submitted to The Union

They say good things come in threes. At Bitney Prep High School, a small public charter school located in Grass Valley’s Glenbrook Basin, that means positive news on three grants, all in just one week.

“The first good grant news came from the Soroptimist International in the Sierra Foothills, our local chapter,” said Russ Jones, Bitney’s director. “It will support a new fund we’ve created to support our families during urgent or crisis situations by providing them with free mental health counseling.”

Several local mental health practitioners have already signed on to be part of a network of support for Bitney families, agreeing to a substantial reduction in their usual fees so that the fund can provide up to 70 vouchers for counseling sessions.

“We hope this acts as a bridge for families as they transition to county services or negotiate with their insurance companies,” Jones said.

Just days later, another piece of good news arrived from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar In Your Community program in the form of technical assistance grant for $10,000.

“Working with the folks at Bitney, especially with Scott Young (a full-time teacher and advisor) has really opened my eyes to what a small organization can accomplish when they’ve got entrepreneurial spirit,” said Eric Stikes, leader of the Local Power team which won the grant.

In conjunction with Grass Valley Charter, Yuba River Charter and partners in the solar installation community, as well as with the Nevada City Planning Department, Stikes and Bitney plan on implementing an ambitious program to provide low-cost solar installations to schools, municipalities and lower income households in Nevada County and beyond.

“We’re installing a Solar Learning Lab, and this is the first piece of it,” said Oliver Bach, a Bitney junior interning at California Solar, proudly showing off his two-panel, portable solar unit. “This will power the electric fan for our greenhouse.”

Additional plans at Bitney include solar charging units for cell phones and computers, and a demonstration photovoltaic array. Eventually, the high school hopes to provide demonstration units for other schools in the community.

“The goal is to reach as many people as possible,” Stikes said.

The very next day, a check arrived from the Bessie Minor Swift Foundation to fund Bitney’s current events literacy program.

“We’ll be subscribing to a class set of an excellent magazine called The Week, providing non-partisan analysis of national and international events,” said Scott Young. “The recent election has galvanized student interest in politics,” Young added, “so we’re hoping to add on to this enthusiasm by providing facts and analysis.”

The Bessie Minor Swift Foundation provides grants for programs that promote literacy and educational enrichment within communities served by Swift Communications, the parent company of The Union.

Formed 18 years ago, Bitney Prep High School provides all students with day-long internships throughout the community every Wednesday. Students at Bitney are also able to attend Sierra College classes for free through a special arrangement between the schools. For more information about the school, families may wish to attend the upcoming Information Night at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 4. Contact the school at 530-477-1235 for more details.

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