Cargill supports Dodge City youth enrichment with $25,000 grant

Kindergarten kids friends arm around sitting smiling (Photo: iStock - Rawpixel)

In a philanthropic effort to support local education and enrichment opportunities for the youth in Dodge City, Cargill’s North American protein business has provided the Sunnyside POP Fund with a $25,000 grant. Initiated over 12 years ago by a dedicated retired teacher, the Sunnyside POP Fund focuses on fostering Private Opportunity Programs for after-school activities, creating unique experiences for students at Sunnyside School. 

The Sunnyside POP Fund has been instrumental in providing alternative after-school programs that are not funded through public channels. Through fundraisers, grants, and donations, the fund has successfully offered various projects and programs to over 650 students in the past 12 years. Cargill’s grant will help to expand the fund’s after-school opportunities for students in need, providing them with enriching experiences that may otherwise be inaccessible.  

Over the years, the Sunnyside POP program has evolved to include a diverse range of opportunities and activities, such as art, piano, crafts, Lego Club, sports programs, and museum visits. These opportunities, however, face barriers for many students and families due to socioeconomic factors. Currently, 98% of Sunnyside students and families receive a free or reduced lunch benefit, making it challenging for them to participate in activities like music lessons, sports programs, and museum visits. 

“Our Private Opportunity Program has been able to offer enriching activities to the students of a high-needs elementary school for several years,” said John Montford, principal of Sunnyside Elementary.  “This generous gift from Cargill will make it possible to continue offering after-school activities to the Sunnyside community for a number of years into the future.”  

“We want to thank Cargill for their commitment and investment in the community of Dodge City and its students,” said Assistant Executive Director for the Community Foundation of Southwest Kansas Ryan Ausmus. “Through the activities of the Sunnyside POP fund students are given the opportunity to build character, teamwork skills, critical thinking capacity, relationships, and exposes them to opportunities outside of students’ daily experience.”  

One of the program’s major highlights is an after-school art program that trains students to think like some of the world’s greatest artists. Inspired by the “Master Artists,” students work on canvases fastened to the bottom of their desks, encouraging them to paint overhead while lying down. This innovative approach allowed students to appreciate the challenges faced by Renaissance Master Michelangelo in painting the Sistine Chapel. Each school year concludes with the Sunnyside School art show, hosted by the students themselves and provides a platform for them to showcase their creations and interpret abstract works for visitors. 

“Art clubs and other after school activities play a vital role in enriching the lives of young students,” said Jeremy Burr, general manager of Cargill’s Dodge City facility. “Cargill is proud to support this incredible organization and their efforts to make a difference in the lives of students in our region.”