BUCKHANNON, W.Va. – Upshur County Schools was awarded a $29,179 grant by the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History (WVDACH) and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts (WVCA).

The WVCA and Cultural Facilities and Capital Resources Grant Program support effective, efficient, safe and accessible venues for arts and history programming.

The awarded grant funding will be matched dollar for dollar by Upshur County Schools to replace sound and lighting equipment in the Buckhannon-Upshur High School auditorium. Superintendent Sara Lewis-Stankus said the hard work of obtaining the grant was done by choir and theater teacher Jeremiah Smallridge.

Buckhannon-Upshur High School choir

“We haven’t really updated the sound equipment and the lighting equipment ever, so the equipment that’s there is the original equipment from the 70s, so our students have just outgrown that.  And, they need equipment that matches their dedication and the talent, so this will help them because they will be able to have hands-on application with the technology if they’re preparing to go into careers and technical theater, or audio engineering or anything like that.  It will help our audience be able to see and hear the students better.”

Jeremiah Smallridge – Teacher

Lewis-Stankus said the auditorium is not only important to the school, but also to the community.

Buckhannon-Upshur High School main building

“This is a place that is utilized by our community, and this is a very important aspect of the grant, that it is utilized by the community, and we’re truly looking forward to the international band competition that will happen in 2023 in Upshur County, and our high school and this auditorium will be utilized throughout that entire experience.  But, we, as a school system, we recognize the importance of a fine arts program.  Mr. Smallridge does a great job, and he really was the point person for this grant.”

Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus – Superintendent

Lewis-Stankus said they are “very proud” of Smallridge’s efforts in securing the grant.

On top of that, she said, he does “an excellent job” with the students.

For instance, students have been invited to be the official representatives for West Virginia Musical Ambassadors for the 100 dedication at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C., Lewis-Stankus said.

Buckhannon-Upshur High School

“I just want to say thank you to Mr. Smallridge because, again, he is a teacher. He didn’t have to step out and do this, but the impact that an educator can have on the lives of our students, it’s life changing,” Lewis-Stankus said. “It’s life lasting and, truly, Mr. Smallridge has done a great job in leading us through this.  Really, it’s ultimately a $60,000 project for our upgrade in our auditorium.”

For his part, Smallridge said he was grateful to the Upshur County Board of Education.

“They are a very arts-minded and a pro-arts board, and it makes all the difference,” Smallridge said.