Much needed calculators welcome gift for students

Much needed calculators welcome gift for students

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NORMAL - For Kingsley Junior High School math teacher Ranae Ernat, one community group's donation really adds up.

Members of the Bloomington-Normal alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi will present 30 Texas Instrument calculators on Monday to Ernat. She has been concerned some students lacking calculators faced an unfair disadvantage in learning the math concepts.

"I was so surprised. I was so elated," Ernat said of hearing the news that the group planned the donation to her classroom.

The timing is perfect, she said. With her students now preparing for the Illinois Standards Achievement Test in March, they'll have time to become comfortable with the calculators.

"It fits one of our national programs, to provide scholarship assistance," said Keith Baker of Normal. The State Farm Insurance Cos. employee leads the Twin Cities alumni chapter of his college fraternity.

The group, a black fraternity, also considered buying the calculators a way to "assist closing the achievement gap in testing scores," he said.

Baker, a graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, said the group was among several local organizations asked to purchase a handful of the calculators. "But we decided we had enough funds to purchase all 30," he said.

The calculators were on the school supply list, but as months passed several students in each of her classes failed to arrive with calculators in hand. Affordability was an issue for many.

Ernat teaches math classes to about 125 students each day.

Like other teachers, Ernat has found herself at stores spending her own money to supplement classroom supplies. But the cost of equipping her room with 30 of the needed calculators would have run about $450, more than she could afford.

A parent of one of Ernat's students sits on the Unit 5 Citizens Advisory Council and heard of Ernat's dilemma. Janice Barnes took on the cause, and the request eventually landed in Baker's hands.

He proposed the donation during the Kappa Alpha Psi alumni's monthly meeting.

"There wasn't much discussion about it. We just see it as another form of scholarship assistance," he said.

The group also organizes fund-raisers and takes part in community service projects. It also participates with an umbrella group, the Bloomington-Normal Black Greek Association, he said.

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