STEM Network Expanding in Pitt County

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Following on the heels of grants from the West, Wells and Perkins Trusts totaling $102,000 that expanded the STEM East Network into Pitt County, a grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation (GLF) of $1.25 million to East Carolina University and others will result in additional funding to support the expansion of the STEM East Network in Pitt County.

Pitt County, NC – August 5, 2014 – Following on the heels of grants from the West, Wells and Perkins Trusts totaling $102,000 that expanded the STEM East Network into Pitt County, a grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation (GLF) of $1.25 million to East Carolina University and others will result in additional funding to support the expansion of the STEM East Network in Pitt County.

Over $1/2 million ($503,452) of GLF funds will directly target students in Pitt County Public Schools by adding 5 additional STEM Learning Centers that will provide project-based, career-relevant, employer influenced curricula in a non-traditional environment. Pitt County is the 6th county in eastern NC to establish STEM Centers with the STEM East Network.

Pitt County Schools Superintendent Dr. Ethan Lenker is a strong supporter of the education and workforce development initiative. “We believe that our students and the economy of eastern North Carolina will reap the benefits of the labs and the modules that are a part of the eSTEAM-based curriculum, and we are eager to see the results of this initiative,” said Lenker.

“The goal is for our teachers to act as facilitators as students direct their own instruction and engage in project-based, hands-on learning. Over time, providing students with an educational background in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, art and design, and entrepreneurship will create a more skilled, well-educated workforce that will help eastern North Carolina prosper in the recruitment and retention of advanced manufacturing industries,” added Lenker.

The balance of the funds will target teachers and students outside of the traditional classroom setting through East Carolina University Office of Innovation and Economic Department (ECU) and Pitt Community College (PCC) Entrepreneurship, Marketing, and Economics Department summer programs in Pitt, Edgecombe and Beaufort counties. Among other activities, the summer programs will offer the Advanced Manufacturing Capstone which will increase students and teachers understanding of careers and career pathways in advanced manufacturing and increase Pitt County School’s capacity to integrate advanced manufacturing into middle and high school curricula through partnerships with local industry. Additionally, PCC faculty will visit 15 school sites across the county to observe classroom activities and meet with teachers for support.

“The ‘Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Academy’ hits the sweet spot of the Foundation by focusing on preparing a workforce for jobs available in the region,” said Dan Gerlach, Golden LEAF President. “This project will provide a pipeline of students that will have the skill demanded by the area’s businesses and industries,” Gerlach added.

From the original concept of an Eastern North Carolina STEM Network in 2009 to the current regional footprint, the STEM East Network has received praise all across the nation. Executive Director, Steve Hill recently accepted the award for STEM Economic Development and Community Engagement Leadership at the International Association for STEM Leaders gathering in Washington DC that is associated with the national STEM conference.

“The efforts being made in Pitt County directly align with what employers are asking of educators. The collaborative work will help expand communication lines with regional employers and support teachers in aligning curriculum with hands-on, project/problem based instruction that has relevancy to the modern workforce. This is a true “win-win” for educators and employers as well as the future economy of Pitt County,” said Steve Hill, Executive Director of STEM East.

The NCEast Alliance is a regional, not-for-profit, economic development corporation serving approximately 1 million residents within several small metropolitan and micropolitan areas from the fringe of the Research Triangle to the Atlantic Coast. The Alliance provides community capacity building and assists companies with site location and expansion evaluations.  For more information on the NCEast Alliance, visit us at www.nceast.org or call 1-800-474-8499.