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Sanford PROMISE honors MHS teacher

A Mitchell teacher received special recognition this week, the school announced Thursday.

According to a press release from the Mitchell School District, Sanford Research recognized Mitchell High School’s Julie Olson as part of its inaugural Sanford PROMISE Ambassadors, “for her work developing the next generation of scientists and improving science literacy.”

Olson, who teaches advanced biology and honors chemistry at Mitchell High School and science at Second Chance High School, said she learned about the grant in October, during the South Dakota Biotech Summit in Sioux Falls.

She told The Daily Republic on Thursday that the recognition came with a $500 grant, for classroom use. She said the recognition also gives her classroom access to propose ideas to Sanford Research, and the possibility of additional funding to incorporate any of those ideas into the classroom.

“I just view that it’s such a great opportunity to get to work with Sanford Research,” Olson said. “That they have these scientists that are so willing to help out with education.”

The Sanford Program for the Midwest Initiative in Science Exploration connects research scientists, educators, community partners and students, according to the school district. The program includes opportunities for students and teachers to collaborate with Sanford Research scientists.

“Mrs. Julie Olson,” said Mitchell School District Superintendent Joseph Graves in a written statement, “is just one of those teachers who is always reaching for the start, working with an inspiring students, enthusiastically embracing science instruction, and find new resources and sources of funding to constantly improve her program. It is no surprise, then, that Sanford has chosen to honor her in this way.”

For her part, Olson said she’s simply trying to engage as many students as she can.

“The students are so diverse, and you never know what’s going to catch their interest,” she said.

Olson and the other Sanford PROMISE Ambassadors have partnered with Sanford Research to engage students in science and advance the cause of science literacy across the region and beyond. More information on the Sanford PROMISE and other programs is available at

“Our first group of partners has invested deeply in enhancing science education,” said Elizabeth McMillan, Sanford PROMISE program director in a written statement. “Their commitment to students and amazing efforts to create science experiences engage students and set the stage for the future of this growing discipline.”

Olson said she tries to take her students to the PROMISE lab at Sanford Research in Sioux Falls about twice a year. She said the ambassador program, in addition to providing students with hands-on learning opportunities, also helps make students aware of the opportunities they have for careers in South Dakota, which she said is a growing avenue for biotechnology.

“There’s a lot of opportunities in South Dakota, that a lot of people don’t know about,” she said.