Governor Kelly Announces More than $8.0M in Grants to Support Learning and Discovery

TOPEKA – Governor Laura Kelly today announced that the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) awarded $8.1 million in grants to Grants to the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center in Topeka and the Phillips Fundamental Learning Center in Wichita. These funds are the first round of the available $18 million in Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Community Capacity Grants, focused on growing educational opportunities for Kansas children and families.

“Ensuring our youngest Kansans and their families have access to opportunities like those offered by Phillips Fundamental Learning Center and the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center is critical to their educational development and our state’s success,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “These grants continue our progress to help Kansas’ children learn, grow, and achieve.”

“At DCF, we believe that communities bring strength through relationships and resources,” said DCF Secretary Laura Howard. “These organizations are doing just that by offering children and families opportunities to learn about the world around them in ways that best fit their abilities and needs.”

The remaining $9.9 million in SPARK Community Capacity Grants will be announced later this summer.

Phillips Fundamental Learning Center (PFLC): $7,778,250
Funding will provide two years of staffing and operating costs, as well as construction services to build a state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility, complete with broadband access.

The new building will allow for in-person and virtual educational opportunities for students with acute needs, especially surrounding dyslexia, in addition to professors and pre-service educators at Kansas universities.

With the new facility, PFLC will implement a pilot program with Kansas universities, providing research-based, graduate-level accredited teacher training program to 300 instructors and graduate-level education students interested in becoming Dyslexia Intervention Specialists. Accredited in 2005, the PFLC educational course prepares educators to teach children with dyslexia and others who struggle significantly to learn to read, write, and spell.

The new center will also allow PFLC to double the number of students served by the Rolph Literacy Academy, a private day school for students with acute needs, especially surrounding dyslexia. PFLC leaders believe enrollment may grow to as many as 120 students.

Kansas Children’s Discovery Center: $333,655
Funds will replace a series of concrete panels that have been impacted by the settling of the building since being built in 2011. The panels will be replaced with a new metal compost cladding system. 

Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.


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