ESPN Anchor's Donation Promotes Running, Technology

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Public Schools System is creating running clubs and an iPad lab thanks to an ESPN anchor. Columbia principals and district leaders met last week to discuss the $20,000 gift from the John Anderson Family Charitable Foundation.

In July, ESPN's John Anderson presented Columbia Public Schools with a check for $20,000. Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Educaton Peter Stiepleman said $15,000 went to Benton Elementary to aid its STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, program. The remaing $5,000 is being split among Russell Boulevard, Parkade, and Blue Ridge Elementaries to start running clubs at the schools.

At Benton, Principal Troy Hogg said most of the money went towards an iPad lab. The school now has 50 iPads, 20 set aside for the staff and 30 for student use. Teachers often use them in small group settings to read ebooks and explore educational applications. Benton also purchased science goggles and hopes to buy lab coats soon.

At Russell, Parkade and Blue Ridge, educators are using the money to promote physical fitness. Russell Elementary Principal Amy Watkins said, "It's important to remember we're raising kids, not just on the academic side, but whole people." The money will help create running clubs at the three schools. In December, a representative from Nike will visit to fit qualifying children for shoes.

Though plans are still in the works, principals hope to create programs including organized morning runs, walking or running trails on school grounds, and 5K participation.