Friday, June 17, 2016

STEM Grant in Pamlico County

News June 15, 2016 issue

Pamlico County to receive $1.2 million Golden LEAF grant for
STEM education

By Crystal Garrett


Ask and you shall receive.

A persistent group of Pamlico County partners in education applied for a grant to create a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Seamless Pathways Pipeline program for students in the county. 

And the Golden LEAF Foundation answered by awarding the county $1.2 million, which will expose students in the county to STEM education and hands-on labs, according to Beth Bucksot, economic developer of Pamlico County. 

Bucksot made the announcement during Monday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting. While the county was notified via a phone call, they haven’t received the official press release notification, she said.

“We asked Golden LEAF…for $1.5 million and we were fortunate and grateful to be awarded $1.2 million,” Bucksot said. “We will be looking for other funding sources to fill in the gap. Those sources will be a combination of grants and other options. The project is too important and interdependent to cut out any part of the project.” 

The STEM program

The program will be open to students from kindergarten to Pamlico Community College. 

“Once implemented, it will touch almost every student in Pamlico County and many from surrounding communities,” Bucksot said. “Professional development training and real business and industry connections for instructors are another key component for the project.” 

Higher levels of STEM education labs will continue at Pamlico Community College and will be available to 11th and 12th grade dual-enrollment students, as well as adults returning to college to enhance skills or start a new career in a STEM-related field, she said. 

“The college already has several STEM curricula that will fit with the program and has the potential to grow more to meet the expected increase in enrollment from the pipeline,” Bucksot said. “Its existing programs already include two exclusive ones in Environmental Science and Electro Neuro Diagnostics. These programs represent two of the many STEM fields with a high job demand, good pay and not enough available workforce (members).” 

The program will not only encompass book or computer learning but will include hands-on applications in labs with modules for Computer Aided Drafting (CAD), electronics, engines, engineering, composites, robotics, materials engineering, software manufacturing, 3D printing, environmental science and problem-solving real life applications. Internships are also a possibility for students at the high school and community college levels, she added. 

Another component of this program will involve kindergarten through 5th grade as well as 6th grade through college age education of parents, students and the community regarding the growth of fields where these skills are needed along with the types of jobs and salaries available in those fields.

Outcomes of the program

“Many families and students never consider STEM-based jobs because they do not realize the vast variety of jobs available,” Bucksot said. “Sometimes students do not want to go to college for four years and opt out of all STEM learning.”

By educating and exposing students to STEM-based hands-on labs it will open their understanding regarding opportunities and options available upon graduating from high school, the community college or a four-year college, she added. 

“This program will graduate high school, community college and four-year or higher level college students with the needed skills to succeed and compete for jobs in industry, technology, medicine, composites, engineering, manufacturing, marine trades and building,” Bucksot said. 

Community partners

Those involved in the project include the Office of Economic Development, Pamlico Community College, Pamlico County Schools, Arapahoe Charter School, the County Manager’s Office and input from local and regional businesses. 

“The level of care, expertise, commitment to excellence and mutual cooperation between these organizations has been a beautiful thing to behold,” Bucksot said. “It is such an unprecedented, real partnership that it is one of the reasons why Golden LEAF was happy to award Pamlico County the grant. This is just one example of what makes Pamlico County an outstanding place to live.” 

In addition to preparing a new successful workforce, the project will aid in growing existing businesses and attracting new ones to the area, Bucksot said. 

“We hope this aids in an end goal of providing more opportunities for families to be able to live, work and stay in Pamlico County,” she said.

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