Education

Introducing Students to the World of STEM Studies

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WilbanksBy J. Alvin Wilbanks, CEO/Superintendent
Gwinnett County Public Schools

Gwinnett Magazine”s focus on healthcare in this issue is a timely reminder of the significance of the medical profession and related industries to the economic vitality of Gwinnett County and its citizens” quality of life. A lot of good work has gone into making sure we can take advantage of what the healthcare field offers in terms of meaningful employment, enhancements to the tax digest, and the general well-being of the local population.

From Gwinnett”s central role in establishing the Innovation Crescent and growing our biomedical presence has come a strong focus on preparing our residents to fill the important jobs that await in the hospitals, medical offices, lab, clinics, and manufacturing facilities that comprise the local healthcare industry. For Gwinnett County Public Schools, it brought an urgency to boost the quantity and quality of opportunities our students have to experience courses in the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Toward that end, in 2006 we opened our first charter school, the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology. GSMST has steadily increased in enrollment, with 849 hopeful students participating in the lottery to fill 350 seats for the 2013-2014 term. In 2010, we converted Maxwell HS of Technology into a charter school and increased its STEM emphasis, and we continue to grow the STEM-related offerings at Grayson Technical Program.

Our traditional high schools encourage capable students to pursue rigorous STEM courses, too, by offering an array of classes designed to spur their interests and talents in these dynamic areas. We also plan to launch a middle school STEM program in the next couple of years. Additionally, students from elementary through high school learn and love it through participating in the Gwinnett County Regional Science and Engineering Fair, now in its 35th year. To bolster the further education of students interested in STEM careers, targeted scholarships are offered through the Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation. For example, in February the “Jim Maran Scholarship in STEM Studies”# was established to honor the former president and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.

We look for all of these efforts to pay off in greater numbers of students getting involved in (and captivated by) the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. That will bode well for their future, and the future of the healthcare-related industries and companies so vital to Gwinnett”s economic good health.