Joe Badger can recall that, back in the day when he went to college, it was rare for students to have their own computers.
“I started at Clarkson College in 1979; in then in 1980, all incoming freshmen got a Zenith desktop computer,” said Badger, president of Genoa-based JBI Corp., an independent battery testing laboratory. “I was already a sophomore, so I didn’t get one.”
A lifelong Genoa resident, Badger was looking for a way to help bring greater access to technology – a vital part of education today – to Genoa High School students. In late 2012, he approached then-school board president Mitch Hoyles, who told Badger about the Genoa Academic Committee (G.A.C.), a newly-formed academic booster group whose goal was to encourage, promote, support, and reward academic excellence for students at Genoa High School.
“I knew there were boosters for music, sports and other groups,” Badger said. “I wanted to find a mechanism to support academics, especially in light of ongoing budget cuts our schools are facing.”
Hoyles put Badger in touch with Kellie Szymanski, president of the G.A.C. “When I met with Joe and his wife and they heard what we were doing, they were thrilled,” Szymanski said. “He wrote us a check for $1,000 that day, and called me some time later to make another $5,000 donation, with the stipulation the funds be earmarked for technology.
“I had also met with Marty Sutter at GenoaBank,” she said. “ He and Joe are friends, and they are both big proponents of academics. We were so grateful to find that the bank board had agreed to make a $5,000 donation, that would also be earmarked for technology.”
Dr. Aaron Meinke, of Genoa Medical Center, and his wife Laura, a school board member (currently president), wanted to contribute toward the effort.
With the donations in hand, the G.A.C., with Genoa High School Principal Cari Buehler and technology coordinator Tom Baker, determined that creating an iPad lab would be the best use of the funds, in order to benefit the most number of students.
“He found us a wonderful deal on iPads, a cart and accessories,” Szymanski said. The iPad lab, which includes 24 iPads loaded with a handful of apps including iBooks, Educreations, Discovery, NASA Science and calculators, is currently available for teachers to use in classrooms, as well as for check-out by individuals or small groups of students.
“On behalf of the staff and students I am forever grateful for the generosity within our Genoa community,” Buehler said. “This is a community that rallies around our kiddos to do and provide whatever is needed to make their career at Genoa High School the best that it can be.
“Because of the recent generous donations from JBI, GenoaBank, and Dr. and Mrs. Meinke, our students and staff have a daily opportunity to enrich their classroom experiences,” she said. “Students now are taking their learning to a whole new level, whether that be through creating podcasts in English class or graphing equations in calculus...we are striving to develop that 21st century learner.”
“These students will someday be the future leaders and decision-makers for Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan,” Sutter said. “GenoaBank is a bank that believes in playing our part. We share a common interest in supporting the people, places and events that make our community such a special place to live.
“We truly believe this gift of sponsoring the iPad Lab at GHS will continue to enrich the lives of the children and teachers who live, work, and attend school in our community,” he said.
In light of the iPad lab’s success, the G.A.C. is hoping to be able to buy more in the future. “Of course, we’d love to have more and we’re looking for grants to fund purchase of more iPads, but unfortunately, grants are not easy to get.
“We are so grateful to our very caring and giving local businesses, including JBI, GenoaBank and Dr. and Mrs. Meinke,” Szymanski said.
“It’s so gratifying how the business community has stepped up,” she said.
“In the year since we organized, we’ve been able to accomplish so much, with the help of the GHS staff, parents, and community members,” she said.
Szymanski credited Riverside Machine and Automation, which has been sponsoring quarterly incentives – including a pancake breakfast and dessert buffet – for students who achieve honor and high honor roll. The company also sponsors a lunch presented by the G.A.C. to a teacher chosen as Teacher of the Month.
“Rayz Café has been wonderful too, allowing us to have two ‘Rayz Dayz’ fundraisers to benefit the G.A.C.,” Szymanski said.
The committee is currently planning its biggest fundraiser ever – a 5K night run called “Brighten the Night,” which will be held Sept. 20 at 9 p.m., in conjunction with the Genoa Street Fair. “We’re working with the Toledo Roadrunners – it’s going to be a fun event,” Szymanski said.
To make a donation to the G.A.C. or for more information, call Buehler at 419-855-7741, ext. 21201. The community is invited to attend committee meetings, which are held the third Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the high school library.
Marty Sutter, Joe Badger, and Laura Meinke with Genoa High School students Haley Gerke, Erica Harder, and Emma Trainer.