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CRC helps facilitate unprecedented STEM program for area students

March 12, 2014

CRC WILL MATCH LOCAL DONORS' STEM DOLLARS

The Culver Redevelopment Commission is offering to match any local individual, organization, or entity wishing to support Culver Community Schools' efforts to facilitate the new STEM-based program outlined in the accompanying article on this page -- no matter how small the financial contribution, until they reach a total of $10,000.
Expenses may include new computers, software, or other equipment needed in support of implementing Project Lead the Way's program, which are not covered by grant funds.

For more information, or to set up a donation, contact Kathy Clark or the CRC at 574-952-2963 or k.clark6094@sbcglobal.net.

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Thanks in part to matching funds from the Culver Redevelopment Commission and other sources, Culver area youth -- along with those throughout Marshall and five other counties -- will be eligible to participate in the regional STEM Education Initiative offered through Project Lead The Way (PLTW), the nation’s leading provider of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs.

Linda Yoder, director of The United Way of Marshall County as well as the Marshall County Community Foundation, addressed Culver's Kiwanis Club last month regarding the initiative, on which United Way and the Marshall County Economic Development Corporation partnered as regional sponsors.

"You need to stake a claim in the success of these projects," Yoder told the audience. "Some folks in this community really stepped it up."

The STEM program's entrance into Marshall County began in 2012 with Corporate Partnership for Economic Growth, a regional group based in South Bend and working to bring business into the area, said Yoder, who noted CPEG's resultant report cited the need for more STEM curriculum in the area.

A community conversation at Swan Lake resort in Plymouth regarding workforce development followed, she said, with a five-county group targeted for the initiative.

An effort launched in 1997 to spread the STEM curriculum has resulted in some 5,000 schools across the country with STEM-related initiatives (which, by the way, has nothing to do with stem-cell research, Yoder clarified.

Companies such as Toyota, Lockheed, and Cargill have pushed for -- and helped fund -- STEM programs, especially in communities within a 40 to 60 mile radius from their operations, she said.

Yoder, who outlined the program and its importance to Culver's town council at a meeting earlier in February, noted finances are a barrier for many schools.

Schools in the five-county area of Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko, Marshall, and St. Joseph are included in the current initiative, about which Project Lead the Way made a proposal in November which Yoder said is "a little bit different model than the rest of the country.

"One thing that sets them apart is the world-class curriculum component for high quality professional development (for students)," she added.

PLTW develops a network it supports involving not just secondary schools but colleges and businesses as well, and will "walk alongside" participating students.

The five-county region was selected to become a model region for PLTW, providing all K-12 schools, both public and private, in a five-county area with the opportunity to implement PLTW’s "rigorous, world-class STEM programs in engineering, biomedical science, and computer science," according to a press release issued Monday.

"The partnership creates a $4.4 million matching grant pilot program to offset startup costs associated with teacher training, participation fees, and required equipment and will be available to schools for the 2014-15 school year through 2016."

To be selected as a model region, the United Way and MCEDC had to raise over $250,000 for Marshall County schools to participate.

All of Culver's matching funds making this possible came from the CRC.
Says Kathy Clark of the CRC, "After an hour-long presentation to the CRC from Linda Yoder and (Culver Comm. Schools superintendent) Vicki McGuire, the CRC decided to vote unanimously on a motion made by Brandon Cooper to give $10,000 per year for three years (for a total of $30,000) to the match for Culver’s share of the PLTW.

We heard that night that Argos put up $15,000 so we sort of ‘raised’ them, then we heard that Bremen gave $45,000 after our meeting, then Plymouth gave over $80,000. It seems all of our towns are very excited about this focused educational project for our children, so each redevelopment commission across the county put as much toward the match as was allowed.

"We also passed a motion to allow CRC to offer $10,000 as a match to encourage others in the community to contribute for direct school expenses involved," added Clark.

“The response from businesses, local units of government, and community leaders across the county was quick and overwhelmingly positive,” said Yoder in the release. “The opportunity to establish a much higher concentration of PLTW’s STEM curriculum in this region is compelling in terms of both developing a competitive workforce to boost the local economy and improving the quality of life for individuals who live and work here.”

In addition to providing every student with access to PLTW, the regional partnership with PLTW engages the local community, business and industry and will help develop a robust talent pipeline for those businesses and industries.

STEM jobs are growing at a rate of 18 percent, nearly twice the rate of other fields, notes the press release. By 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce estimates 1.2 million unfilled jobs in STEM fields due to a widening skills gap. In Indiana, 123,000 new STEM jobs will exist by 2018, the majority of which will be computer and mathematical scientists, engineers, and engineering technicians. STEM jobs are among the country’s highest paying jobs.

Applications for schools for the 2014-15 academic year are due March 31, and schools will be accepted and notified in April.

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