In November 2010, a small group of concerned and diverse citizens gathered to address a set of education challenges: 1) a deficit of knowledge workers for the 21st century economy; 2) a wide disparity in offerings for highly able students across school divisions; and 3) limited student exposure to rich, integrated science, technology, engineering and applied mathematics curriculum early and continuously throughout their school career. What emerged was the design for the Virginia Science Technology Engineering and Applied Mathematics Academy (STEAM) Academy. The mission of the VA STEAM Academy is to nurture the next generations of creative, ethical, and imaginative STEAM leaders who understand and respect the humanities.
Modeled after the acclaimed North Carolina School for Science and Mathematics (an anchor and founding entity in the state’s renowned Research Triangle), the proposed VA STEAM Academy has three key components:
1) a public, boarding academy for approximately 1,000, 9th-12th grade students from across the commonwealth;
2) a summer boarding academy for highly able middle school students, grades 6-8; and
3) high-quality professional development for K-12 teachers and administrators as well as digital, on-demand classroom instruction for middle and high school students in all regions of the state.
Since its initial meeting, the VA STEAM Academy Steering Committee has made tremendous strides. Among the highlights, it has:
- secured 501c3 status and is a charitable organization;
- garnered bipartisan support from state and federal leaders;
- received a $200,000 planning grant from the VA General Assembly to study the feasibility of the Academy;
- been endorsed by public, K-12 school superintendents (Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, and Hampton), scientific research and development entities (Jefferson Laboratory, National Institute of Aerospace), businesses (TowneBank, Zel Technologies, Old Point Bank, Bank of the James in Lynchburg, Wilbanks, Smith & Thomas), and institutions of higher education, brokering its first Memorandum of Understanding with Virginia Tech and pursuing partnerships with University of Virginia, Old Dominion University, College of William and Mary, and Norfolk State University, as well as scientific and business leaders NASA Langley, Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, and the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce;
- benefited from pro bono legal, accounting, architectural, and instructional design support; and
- raised awareness about the project across the commonwealth through small and large group gatherings, and invited presentations.
Virginia has a wealth of resources to support and sustain the VA STEAM Academy. The Academy will leverage these resources, lead innovation, provide access to those with ability and interest, regardless of zip code, and serve as an economic driver for the commonwealth and specifically Hampton Roads. The Academy will provide businesses and institutions of higher education with an exceptionally well-prepared high school graduate who can enter higher education or the workplace with the knowledge, skills, leadership and creativity needed to excel.
To learn more about the VA STEAM Academy and contribute to its development, please contact Academy co-founders, Judy K. Stewart, PhD and M. Caroline Martin, RN, MHA at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.