Originally published May 14, 2019 in the Grand Forks Herald.

By Bonnie Meibers

The weight room in Elroy Schroeder Middle School was old, outdated and some of the equipment was unsafe to use. Physical education teacher Julie Hegland wanted to change that.

When she couldn’t get funding through traditional channels, Hegland took matters into her own hands.

“I had tried for years,” Hegland said. “I kept writing grants. And finally I set out on a mission to get money for the fitness lab elsewhere.”

Hegland was hoping to raise $30,000, but far surpassed that goal. She raised $39,779 for new equipment from her family, friends, community members and even her students.

“Even if my kiddos wanted to give me like $5, I wanted everybody to be involved,” Hegland said.

The PACE training circuit Hegland purchased cost $22,000 alone, she said. The PACE circuit is “very good for kids,” Hegland said.

“With kids this age that are still growing, this is perfect,” Hegland said.

The fitness lab was completed in August of 2018, Hegland said. She began fundraising in October of 2017 and by January 2018, she had raised $18,000.

“I had a big thermometer out in the hallway to show where I was with my goal and a white board with the names of everyone who had donated,” Hegland said. “It was fun. I am so proud of it.”

Now that it is completed, the fitness lab is always full of students — especially after school.

“There’s not much for kids to do here in our community. This is a way they can stay out of trouble. My ‘why’ has been for my kids,” Hegland said. “We try to teach lifestyle activities, things that kids can take with them and use forever, and fitness and health is a big part of longevity. It is important to instill that at a young age.”

Hegland has been a teacher at Schroeder for 17 years. She was also a student at Schroeder when she was in middle school.

“This is my school, this is my community,” Hegland said. “I want to make it better.”

Hegland applied for an Impact Grant through the Grand Forks Foundation for Education. Out of two proposals she made to the foundation, they granted her lower request of $8,000. The Parent Teacher Organization gave twice to Hegland’s cause, for a total of more than $10,000.

Hegland made a 503(c) account — specifically for nonprofit organizations — through the Grand Forks Education Foundation and put most of what she raised into that account.

With some of the funds left over, Hegland got an audio system for the fitness lab and will pay for a refurbished sound system in the main gym.

“HB Sound and Light is going to do the main gym,” Hegland said. “Our current system is old and it cuts out. It’s time it gets replaced.”

Hegland hopes to update other gym facilities, like locker rooms and the secondary gym, with other funds.

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    Grand Forks teacher raises nearly $40,000 for weight room
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    Grand Forks teacher raises nearly $40,000 for weight room
    Teacher takes it upon herself to raise $40,000 to refurbish school's fitness center.
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