Grant would foster STEM education

By Denise Dick


If the state approves the Mahoning County Educational Service Center’s grant application, STEM education will broaden across the county with students able to earn associate degrees upon high school graduation.

Ron Iarussi, ESC superintendent, said the agency will submit a Straight A grant application early next week, asking for $977,000.

Straight A grants are designed to fund creative, innovative ideas to improve education.

“One is for the STEM Academy along with a seamless STEM curriculum that will start in the elementary grades and go through high school,” he said.

The grant has several components including professional development for teachers on improving STEM instruction in kindergarten through sixth grades; a mobile fab lab, a trailer loaded with equipment such as 3-D printers and other manufacturing devices that can travel to different school districts; and a contract with EdWorks to help the county establish the early college concept.

EdWorks is a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks. It’s the same organization, connected to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that was instrumental in establishing Youngstown Early College several years ago.

Early college allows high school students to earn college credit at the same time they’re completing high school. Many earn associate degrees.

The early college program planned by the ESC would connect to career paths including medical and advanced manufacturing.

“The whole idea is to help the local economy,” Iarussi said. “Two major areas in the local economy are advanced manufacturing technology and the health-related industry. We think those are two areas that we need, and we could help by providing a larger, more skilled and qualified workforce.”

STEM+ME2, pronounced “STEM and me too,” will focus on science, technology, engineering, mathematics and manufacturing, energy and entrepreneurship. It will instruct ninth and 10th-grade students, with 75 ninth-graders and 75 10th-graders accepted in the first year. The second year, school officials hope to accept 110 new ninth-graders.

A previous plan called for the academy to open on the second floor of Phelps Hall at Youngstown State University. The opening was pushed back a year because the space needed renovation.

Now, the academy will open, at least initially, at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.

“We still want to keep [YSU] as a future if it’s available,” Iarussi said. “The problem we have right now to renovate the space at YSU just was outside of our budget.”

The state is expected to announce grant awards in late January.

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