STEM Education

Pictured L to R: Sup. Brent Vidrine, Monroe City Schools; Sup. Don Coker, Ouachita Parish Schools; Craig Spohn, Cyber Innovation Center; Mayor Jamie Mayo, City of Monroe; Stacey Goff, CenturyLink.

Local Schools to Become “STEM Academies”  

By Carrick Inabnett, Vice President – Economic Development, CenturyLink

Almost one year ago today, an important meeting took place in Bossier City, Louisiana.  Members of the Cyber Innovation Center, led by Craig Spohn, and members of CenturyLink’s Economic Development team, met to discuss the idea of bringing STEM training into Ouachita Parish high schools.  From that meeting, CenturyLink went back to the two school Superintendents for Ouachita Parish – Brent Vidrine (Monroe City Schools) and Don Coker (Ouachita Parish Schools) – and started the dialogue which would ultimately lead to the impending STEM training beginning in Fall, 2017, in the City and Parish high schools.
 
As with any public interest project, bringing STEM to Ouachita Parish/Monroe City high schools has largely succeeded because of public/private partnerships.  Over the course of last Summer and Fall, the City of Monroe agreed to join the STEM project by promising $25,000 to the Monroe City Schools for equipment critical to the STEM training.  Also, IBM provided assistance with the training process, and many members of the Monroe City School Board, Ouachita Parish School Board, Monroe City Council and Ouachita Parish Police Jury have championed this STEM initiative.  Perhaps most importantly, the Department of Homeland Security has given a grant to the Cyber Innovation Center which will allow the Center to conduct all STEM training for free!
 
On February 16, 2017, these public/private partnerships supporting STEM came to fruition, with a major announcement at CenturyLink’s Technology Center of Excellence, where the Superintendents publicly committed to the start of STEM Academies in the public high schools in the Fall, 2017, and CenturyLink, the City of Monroe, IBM and others affirmed their commitment to this incredible program.
 
In real terms, by establishing STEM Academies in all City and Parish public high schools, Ouachita Parish will become only the second Parish in the state (Bossier being the other one) to offer STEM Academy-level training throughout its public high schools.  STEM Academy graduates will be able to take their training on to college where they can further enhance their IT/engineering training, BUT these graduates will also be eligible to take IT certification tests right out of high school, which, if passed, will put these students immediately into the IT job market, in a lucrative salary range.  And, if the students choose community college as a third alternative, they will be able to build upon their high school STEM training with specially tailored community college courses, resulting in community college degrees that lead to top level IT jobs.
 
Ultimately, these STEM graduates, regardless of whether they pursue further academic training, will have a major impact upon this community’s poverty level, education level, and ability to attract top talent to the area.  The business community is very hopeful that this Ouachita/Monroe high school STEM training, along with the STEM training offered in Bossier City high schools, and the higher education IT/Engineering/Computer Science training at Louisiana Delta Community College, Bossier Parish Community College, University of Louisiana Monroe, Louisiana Tech and Grambling, will even further transform the I-20 corridor between Shreveport and Monroe into a haven for IT companies and IT-related employment.

To learn more about the STEM curriculum developed by the Cyber Innovation Center’s education arm, the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center (NICERC), visit their website at nicerc.org.