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USD 431 hosts chamber coffee
Electric car program, water filling stations spotlighted for community
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Members of Hoisington High School 431 Racing team talked about building and racing electric cars at the Chamber of Commerce coffee hosted Thursday morning by USD 431. Their sponsor, Industrial Arts teacher Mike Berends, pictured in the foreground, was credited with getting the program going again after it was briefly sidelined. USD 431 Wellness Committee Chair Krisa Schneider also talked about the districts new water filling stations they were able to install thanks to a Pathways Grant. - photo by VERONICA COONS, Great Bend Tribune

HOISINGTON — Thursday morning, Hoisington Chamber of Commerce members and people from the community gathered at the high school shop classroom for coffee and breakfast items, and an opportunity to hear from students and teachers about what’s new at the school. Members of the Hoisington 431 Racing team were on hand to talk about the program where they build and race standard battery powered or solar powered electric vehicles.
The program was sidelined for a brief period but with the addition of a new sponsor, HHS Industrial Arts teacher Mark Berends, students are once again putting STEM skills to work. Their work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Michelle Moshier with the Clara Barton Foundation asked about an award the school has consistently received at the various ElectroRally matches it has attended in recent years. The Spirit award, they explained, is awarded to the team that embodies the spirit of teamwork, not only among their own members, but with other schools at the matches. Hoisington hosted its first match earlier this month on Oct. 12.
After the team finished answering questions, it was time to hear from Krisa Schneider, third grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary and Chairman of the USD 431 Wellness Committee. She came to talk about a $20,000 Pathways Grant the district recently received.

Bottle filling stations ready
“The $20,000 grant was a huge accomplishment for us. It allowed us to install water bottle filling stations in all of the buildings throughout the district and provide each of our students with a clear water bottle,” Schneider said.
She thanked members of the Pathways Grant committee and Mike Harmon with A&F Enterprises. The district purchased the stations through A&F, and Harmon partnered with the district to install the bottle fillers, providing labor outside of school hours so students would not be disrupted.
“Just as a district, we are so excited about all of the wonderful things we have going on in our partnership with Clara Barton Hospital,” Schneider said.
She spoke about how the stations had been wellness committee goal for many years, but finding the money to follow through had been impossible. The Pathways to a Healthy Kansas Grant helped to make the committee’s dream a reality.
“There is a lot of research out there about the correlation between hydration and brain activity, said Schneider. “Water helps to enhance the learning process, and helping our students to enhance their knowledge is our top priority. That is why we were so passionate about getting the filling stations in our schools.”
The water bottle filling stations were installed in all USD 431 schools - one at Roosevelt, three at the middle school, four at the high school – as well as two additional units at the activity center.
The water filling stations were purchased through A&F Enterprises, a local business providing plumbing, heating and air conditioning services. The company also assembled and installed the units.
“The implementation of the water filling stations has been great and the kids have been drinking a lot more water,” said Schneider. “They especially like using the filling stations to fill their new water bottles.”
Water bottles were included in the grant project, and each student in the district has been provided with one. In addition, the district was able to purchase enough to provide every incoming kindergarten student with one for the next five years.

Hoisington strives to model
One of the main focuses for USD 431’s Wellness Committee was to become a “modeling” school district according to the Kansas School Wellness Policy Model guidelines. To become a “modeling” district, the wellness committee had to demonstrate that the wellness policies and practices implemented by the district were highly effective. The committee recently completed all of the steps necessary to become a “modeling” school. Completing this goal meant the committee was eligible to apply for a $20,000 nutrition grant available through the Pathways to a Healthy Kansas grant awarded to Hoisington and the Northern Barton County communities in 2016.
“We envision Kansans living in healthy communities that provide the highest possible quality of life and well-being,” said Virginia Barnes, Director of Blue Health Initiatives at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas (BCBSKS). “The investments we are supporting through Pathways to a Healthy Kansas with community partnerships, such as the one with Clara Barton and the USD 431 Wellness Committee, are positively impacting youth to help ensure healthier Kansans in the future.”
The Pathways grant is the largest community grant program ever funded by BCBSKS. The program provides community coalitions with the tools and resources needed to remove barriers and engage the community in ways that enable healthy eating and active living to become a way of life.
“The addition of the water filling stations has been an outstanding accomplishment,” said Schneider. “Pushing health and wellness is extremely important to us as a district, because it will have long-term effects on our students as we prepare them to make good choices as they grow older and develop into young adults.“