C.M. Russell High School students just got a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) building thanks to local taxpayers. The state-of-the-art equipment inside is courtesy of a local family.
Community activist Gerry Jennings was grateful taxpayers passed the bond issue that included the STEM building, but knew the funds only covered the actual building.
”Buildings have to be equipped,” she said. “That’s when I started thinking we should donate to help equip it.”
The “we” includes her husband Dr. Chuck Jennings, a retired orthopedic surgeon. They donated $50,000 to help furnish the building.
The equipment ranges from traditional classroom equipment to computers, carts and science tools. Earth Science classes, for example, got a groundwater simulator.
The building is anything but a traditional academic classroom and its uses are evolving, said Jon Davis, CMR’s science department chair, who with science teacher Josy McLean, met with the Chuck and Gerry to come up with a list of equipment.
“Before, we didn’t have the space to teach in multiple disciplines and now we can be more creative,” Davis said. “We can teach differently. So we asked for equipment as broadly as we could. We’re grateful to the Jennings family.”
The Great Falls schools were a major factor in attracting the Jennings to Great Falls in 1974. All four of their children are CMR graduates and two grandchildren currently attend the school.
Dr. Jennings’ specialty is hand surgery and he loves to teach. He and Gerry met while he was interning at the University of Vermont, where she was a nursing instructor. An avid outdoorsman, climber, backcountry skier and bicyclist, he retired from his practice in 2013.
Gerry Jennings is a community volunteer and serves on numerous local and state boards. She initiated the popular College Night for Great Falls students to explore their post-secondary options in 1985. She also serves on the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation board.
They join other private donors who are enhancing the $99 million bond issue passed by voters in 2016. While every school in the district is getting building updates, many needed items, such as equipping the STEM Building, were left out.
There are other needs to be met.
If you are interested in helping, contact Dave Crum, Executive Director of the GFPS Foundation at (406) 268-7340 or email him at email@example.com.