SYRACUSE — School administrators know it’s not every week that you have a huge windfall come walking through the front door. But for students, faculty and staff at two Davis County high schools, good fortune came knocking in a big way on Friday afternoon.
The National Math and Science Initiative, the Northrup Grumman Foundation and Hill Air Force Base partnered to donate $1.7 million for science, technology, engineering and math education and training, with most of the money targeted for college readiness curriculums at Syracuse and Northridge high schools over the next three years.
“The more opportunity we have to bring industry into our schools, the better it is,” said Syracuse High Principal Wendy Nelson. “It’s creating awareness about careers that are available to students.”
The National Math and Science Initiative is a nonprofit organization that seeks ”to improve student performance in STEM education” to help fill the growing national need for qualified candidates in those career fields. The schools were selected based on their large population of military dependents.
Funding includes $1.2 million from the Department of Defense, along with $250,000 from defense contractor Northrup Grumman and an additional $250,000 from Hill Air Force Base in cooperation with the Utah STEM Action Center to develop STEM programs in the local area, explained Hill AFB STEM program manager Alison Sturgeon.
This is the first time the initiative has funded students in Utah. While STEM education is a focus across the country, Hill Air Force Base is especially motivated to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists, said Alison Sturgeon, Hill’s STEM program manager.
“On average we look to hire more than 200 engineers and computer scientists at Hill Air Force Base every year,” she said. “Anything we can do to further those education opportunities and keep our younger generation moving toward those fields is a big priority for us, and we’re excited to bring this grant money to our local community.”
She added that Utah has more than 7,000 companies that need engineers and computer scientists, and this program could help develop a pipeline of qualified talent to fill positions with those local employers.
“All the technology of today, all the progress we hope to make tomorrow, all those possibilities start with a solid foundation in STEM education,” said Brig. Gen. Steven Bleymaier, commander of Hill’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex. “We are always looking to hire the best and brightest minds that unlock those possibilities. For that to happen, we need to promote and enable STEM education.”
According to the nonprofit, its program has increased the number of students succeeding in advanced coursework in math, science and English across the country. The organization’s specific mission to support military families began in 2010, said Marcus Lingenfelter, senior vice president of the group's state and federal programs. Since then, 160 military-connected high schools in 29 states around 75 defense installations of all four armed services have participated, he said.
“We are deploying this program not only to enhance measurable academic outcomes for military-connected school systems, but also to serve national, state and regional workforce needs,” he said. “The cyber mission at Hill Air Force Base demands STEM literacy with specific preparation in advanced mathematics and computer science.”
Lingenfelter added that focusing on academically rigorous subjects of priority to the Defense Department also aligns with the region’s workforce needs.
“We recognize the vital role that STEM education plays in our nation,” said Justin McMurray, director of Weapon System Sustainment and Modernization for Northrop Grumman Technology Services. “We are delighted to be associated with programs that demonstrate a commitment to a future workforce.”