Education: A Lifelong Vocation

For John Bowden, the time he has spent in the field of education has been more than a career; it’s been a lifelong passion that spans almost fifty years. He got his start as a high school teacher and librarian, moved into community colleges, and finally to Southwest Minnesota State University, where John spent twenty-six years as the Dean of Distance Learning and Library Director. For the past six years he has continued his involvement in education with his volunteer work as a Foster Grandparent, first in Marshall and now within the St. Cloud School District.

John has, as he says, “been around the block in education.” His experience, combined with a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership, has allowed him to be of service to the community in numerous ways, the biggest of which is as a volunteer grant writer. The grants that John has written have funded many projects that have benefitted the St. Cloud School District.

As an educator, John has seen the importance of reading for students. Several of the projects John has written grants for center around reading, including three reading gardens at Kennedy, Clearview, and Talahi Elementary schools. Reading gardens are an alternative to the library, they offer kids an outdoor space to sit and read on benches or on the ground. John also wrote several grants for new books in the libraries at Clearview and Talahi. As a Foster Grandparent, he often works with students on their reading, and delights when he sees them making progress.

Another grant project centered around reading is an inter-generational reading project that takes place between Clearview Elementary and Saint Benedict’s Senior Community. Fourth grade students from Clearview travel by bus to read to seniors once a month. John originally wrote a three year grant for the project, but because of its tremendous success Saint Benedict’s made it a funding priority, recently raising $15,000 to continue the project long-term.

Other grants John has written include: funding for artists in residence, money for field trips, and a grant for iPads to expose first and second grade girls to engineering. His work has also made training for teachers possible, most recently the Quest program on character development for students. This training has been made possible for 145 teachers over 4 years, which impacts 2,400 students each year.

Through all this work, you often hear the refrain from John, “it’s for the children.” In the work he does writing grants and as a Foster Grandparent, his motivation is apparent. He envisions an enriched education and a brighter future for kids, and works to make that vision a reality.

-Emily Chaphalkar