The Penn State Center on Rural Education and Communities, in partnership with The Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) on May 6 issued the annual Building Community Award through Rural Education to the Forest Area School District. The award was announced at the PARSS annual meeting in Boalsburg, PA. The Building Community Award recognizes a school or school district that has demonstrated innovative practices by improving educational opportunities while strengthening education.
Superintendent Amanda Hetrick received the award on behalf of the Forest Area School District. The district, spanning Forest, Venango, and Elk Counties, covers about 500 square miles but is highly rural and has an enrollment of just over 400 students. The district has distinguished itself through addressing broadband access within the district during the COVID-19 pandemic, and working with regional health care providers to establish a rural medical clinic servicing district residents. The Forest Area School District has also worked to address issues of food security for community residents by creating community gardens in both communities where produce is grown for donation to local residents. The District attributes its success to having built multiple ongoing partnerships with community businesses and agencies to promote career readiness for students and to engage in community outreach. Forest Area School District was nominated for the award by Forest County Commissioner Bob Snyder.
Two additional Honorable Mentions were also issued. The Bentworth School District and superintendent Scott Martin received an Honorable Mention for efforts to address student mental health, an issue that was worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Spring Grove Area High School, in York County, also received an Honorable Mention. Spring Grove teachers have developed an Advanced Video Journalism program. The video journalism program has connected students with local veterans to produce a series of “All Vets” video documentaries focused on the lives and experiences of local military veterans.