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Mars Planet Foundation seeking new board members

The Mars Planet Foundation, an organization dedicated to funding educational activities and projects in Mars Area School District, is looking for two new board members from the community to help manage programs and finances within the group.

“We need volunteers that will lead us to fund raise, lead and support initiatives and continue to provide unique opportunities for the students of the Mars Area School District,” the foundation said in a statement on its website.

Founded in 2009, the foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that works to fund monetary teacher grants and sets up a number of scholarships for students.

At a meeting at the end of 2021, the foundation expanded the number of community member seats on its board from six to seven. The board will now be composed of seven community members and two school board members, and the group is looking for a new member to fill the new seat along with someone to fill a vacant treasurer position.

Tricia Holland, secretary with the Mars Planet Foundation, said the roles are open to anyone who wants to help the school district. She elaborated that, ideally, applicants for the treasurer seat will have a background in finance or previous experience as a treasurer for a nonprofit organization.

Ambassador roles are also available for those who are interested in participating, but want to help on specific projects instead.

“If they contact us or contact me, I can start them on that process,” she said. “What we ask of board members is that you attend our monthly meetings, which are the third Tuesday of every month.”

The foundation’s teacher enrichment grants have helped to finance a number of projects in the district, including the Giant Mars and Moon Maps from the Aldrin Family Foundation that STEAM teacher Colleen Hinrichsen was recently able to use in her classes at Mars Area Elementary School.

“What we’re doing is funding those innovative ideas that are sometimes too risky to take on because you don’t know how it’s going to work out in the classroom,” Holland said. “We will fund it for a year while they decide if they like it, and then the school can make it part of the curriculum and they can fund it.”

The foundation’s other major role is in managing a number of scholarship opportunities for Mars Area School District students. This year, the foundation has 15 different scholarships available.

“The wide range and variety of them are not just your typical scholarship where you look at your GPA and get notes from your counselor,” said scholarship chairwoman Megan Lenz. “There’s a lot of scholarships that don’t have a GPA criteria, and the goal is to get all types of students to apply to them. There is something for everybody. There’s even one for kids who want to go into technical school or the vo-tech.”

A number of the scholarships were also created by community members in memory of loved ones, she said.

“These kids, every year, are able to not only learn about the roots and the people in Mars who want to help (them) get to college, but also get money for school, which is such a need for everybody,’ Lenz said. “It’s a such a nice way for (families) to honor a loved one and keep their memory alive while also helping Mars students.”

All scholarship applications from students are due to the guidance department by April 1.

Anyone interested in applying for the open board positions can send a letter of interest and a current resume to admin@marsplanetfoundation.org by Feb. 14.