Public schools do not function in a vacuum. Education leaders from the Pre-K level through high school have known this for some time. They have made advancements in reaching beyond their buildings to form strategic partnerships with community, corporate and educational organizations. As a result, graduates are better equipped to earn a college degree and enter the current job market.
Perhaps no one has seen the benefit of such partnerships better than leading female thought leaders. Here are some of their observations on how networking and expanded educational opportunities can be a win-win for communities.
Leading publications urge students to get into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, but what does that look like for the classroom and community? Jodi Prosise, Ph.D., chair of the engineering department at Saint Ambrose University (SAU) in Davenport, Iowa, has been working for years to connect rural students in Iowa and Illinois with STEM careers. She speaks to classrooms about what a career in engineering looks like and how the skills apply across many real-world industries. Guided activities, including design and prototyping projects, summer camps and an engineering carnival, are a few of the successful ways she helps students see the possibilities and value of an engineering degree. As a result of her efforts, the enrollment in SAU engineering programs tripled.
Recreating College for Today's Student
In recent years, college-bound high school graduates have already earned more college-level credits than ever before. Therefore, many of them enter school at a junior level or higher. Martha D. Saunders, President of the University of West Florida, recognizes that dual credit has changed high school's educational environment and would like to see colleges adapt their models to accommodate the trend.
In addition to reviewing the core competencies required for college, President Saunders has placed a high priority on working with companies to create internship programs. This allows students to get a clearer vision of their future interests while learning important skills long before graduation.
Aiming High for Technological Readiness
Limiting tech learning to the classroom is not enough to prepare students for the careers of tomorrow. Shelli Brunswick, COO of the Space Foundation, sees a role for private companies focusing on tech and engineering to directly fund student opportunities through apprenticeship programs and scholarships to camps and workshops. She also sees teacher development as the future of better classroom experiences, including the prioritization of experiential, hands-on learning. Even with these changes, schools cannot do it alone. Brunswick hopes to see continued collaboration with "private enterprise, communities, government agencies, and subject matter experts to build a realistic and pragmatic training foundation to inspire and prepare students."
Are you a woman in education with a strong desire to create change in your school? There are many opportunities for connecting communities, companies and educational groups for the betterment of student outcomes. You could be in a strategic position to advocate for students and help form those partnerships needed to keep kids learning and growing in their classrooms and communities.
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