Foundation 2023

Foundation approves $3K in grants at High School, O’Neal
Posted on 12/12/2023
PBHS Esports Club students, under adviser Cody Cassinger, enjoy the newly acquired gaming computers.

The Poplar Bluff School Foundation unanimously approved $3,000 outside of classroom budgets, the majority of teacher grants submitted, in its annual Innovative Educational Project program during a quarterly meeting held last month.

The projects approved, four out of seven, included gaming computers and materials to refurbish a tower garden at the High School; and an incubator/brooder box, along with a throwable microphone at O’Neal Elementary.

“I think these four are all different and all over the place this year, and that’s what we want, is innovation,” stated Foundation member Dr. Mike Price, school board representative. “It’s gonna encourage more [submissions] as word’s gonna go out, and that’s one of our missions.”


The largest grant approved this cycle was $1,850 for five PCs with monitors so the newly established Esports Club at PBHS can practice for competition during the spring season under the Missouri Scholastic Esports Federation.

The club continues to gain momentum since being formed in August, having experienced a degree of success in its first unofficial competition, acquiring team T-shirts and finding a permanent home.

“We have had overwhelming support from everyone along the way including administration, the IT Department, our teachers—and it means the world to us that the Foundation picked our project,” said PBHS Help Desk assistant Cody Cassinger, who serves as coach along with volunteer Joe Salamone of the district’s Instructional Technology Department. “We worked tirelessly to get this off the ground, Joe and I, and without the grant, it would have been almost impossible.”

Despite previously only working with personal Nintendo Switches on loan, the club managed to place fourth out of 24 teams during its inaugural tournament in October at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. Uniforms were supplied by LifeLine Church in Fisk, where Cassinger moonlights as youth pastor.

With the new STGAubron desktops, the club was able to relocate across the hall from the Help Desk to a room that previously served as extra storage space for the library’s Giving Closet. Tryouts were held on Friday, Dec. 8, to compete through MOSEF next month in the game Valorant as well as Super Smash Bros. Crew Battles, according to Cassinger.

In the PBHS Special Education Department, faculty members Miranda Huddleston and Tyler Mathys were additionally awarded a $325 grant for chemicals to refurbish a classroom tower garden following Christmas break.

Students of the Independent Living class will grow plants with the hydroponics system using the minerals, rockwool cubes, pH adjusters and net pots purchased, then ultimately harvest herbs and vegetables for cooking, according to the successful proposal.

“Students will learn valuable skills that they will be able to apply to their everyday life after high school,” the faculty colleagues wrote. “These skills include, but are not limited to: food/lab preparation and safety skills, preparing vegetables and herbs to use in cooking, understanding and recognizing the difference between healthy and unhealthy meals, taking measurements in a variety of ways, and working with a variety of tools/utensils.”


Elementary Music Department Chair Daniel Cox was able to incorporate a QBall Throwable Microphone with a Bluetooth speaker into his music classroom at O’Neal Elementary with his $309 grant.

As seen on the business reality series “Shark Tank,” the throwable wireless microphone wrapped in foam is designed to amplify soft voices, increase participation, foster collaboration and provide an easy way for all students to be heard during musical activities, Cox stated.

“Shy or soft-spoken students could share ideas and collaborate at full voice,” the grant proposal read in part. “This microphone would give all students a chance to speak up and be heard.”

Cox explained that he previously read online about how the technology engages students and equalizes voices, increasing confidence. “Their smiles light up when they hear their voice over the amplifier,” he said of his initial experience with the product last week.

Meanwhile, O'Neal librarian Ashley Robertson plans to hatch ducks and chickens with her elementary students in the spring through a $564 grant.

She already received an incubator for the fertile eggs she will later acquire, and is awaiting the arrival of a brooder box with built-in heating lamps.

“They will learn about where their food comes from, life cycles and what their clothing is made of,” Robertson wrote in her winning proposal. She echoed Cox’s sentiment, stating that the students will “light up” when they get to witness the eggs hatching.

In other business, the Foundation board set the amount at $1,000 for their annual college scholarship designated for an individual seeking to enter the teaching profession, with the remainder of the proceeds from their annual golf fundraiser going into the capacity building fund, as outlined by the nonprofit’s by-laws.


Cutline: Esports Club students at PBHS, under adviser Cody Cassinger (standing), enjoy the newly acquired gaming computers on Thursday, Dec. 7, in their headquarters in the school library.

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