Monmouth College’s educational studies program has received a big boost in its work to prepare more teachers for rural communities.

The support comes in the form of a $750,000 federal grant, which former U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois secured through the federal Community Project Funding program.

The grant will support the Monmouth Rural Education Initiatives program, which aims to address teacher shortages in rural communities, increase representation of teachers of color and encourage more student-community engagement, according to a Monday college release

“This exceptional grant recognizes and advances Monmouth College’s role as a force for good in our immediate community and in communities across Illinois,” said Monmouth President Clarence R. Wyatt. “I am proud of the work being led by our educational studies faculty members and their students. I am especially grateful to Congresswoman Cheri Bustos for her great efforts in securing this grant and for her strong partnership with Monmouth College.”

Monmouth College has received a $750,000 federal grant to help prepare more teachers to serve rural communities.

Since its inception in 2019, the Monmouth Rural Education Initiatives program has worked with more than 150 students at the liberal arts college, three dozen of which went on to become teachers in the region. The program has also worked with more than 600 Warren County school children through involvement with various programs, including the College’s Educational Farm & Garden.

“By developing a strong triangle of cooperation between Monmouth College, area schools and community center, we are helping address the shortage of teachers in rural areas,” said Monmouth educational studies co-chair Craig Vivian. “And because our students are prepared to be teachers-as-leaders, we also give communities another individual who can enhance and support community initiatives.”

The Monmouth Rural Education Initiatives has three components — the TARTANS Rural Teacher Corps; place-based teaching sites that provide classrooms where students focus on their local place through project-based inquiry learning; and the Monmouth Educational Farm & Garden, which provides living resources that enrich hands-on education about agriculture, sustainability and nutrition.

“Schools are the lifeblood of many rural communities,” said Monmouth educational studies co-chair Tammy La Prad. “One way communities are strengthened is when they have visionary teachers who invest in them by extending their classrooms beyond the walls of a school building, and that is what the Monmouth Rural Education Initiatives prepares its educational studies graduates to do.”

In its less than five years of work, “it’s been pretty extraordinary to see how the Monmouth Rural Education Initiatives program has helped bring forth transformative opportunities in our region, thanks to working together with a diverse group of organizations and people,” said Jennifer Dickens, the program’s director of partnerships and initiatives.

“The Monmouth Rural Education Initiatives program has mobilized what’s already good in the region and it has introduced crucial opportunities to strengthen it,” said Dickens.