Highland News Leader

$20k grant to aid science curriculum at Highland High Schools

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) has announced that Highland High School are among 26 rural Illinois middle and high schools that will begin new computer science, engineering and biomedical science-focused programs this school year, thanks to $1 million in multi-year grant funding made possible by the Astellas USA Foundation.

Grant funds will cover program fees, classroom equipment and supplies, as well as teacher professional development. Each school sent teachers to training this summer to prepare to implement PLTW this school year.

Highland Community Unit School District No. 5 Superintendent Mike Sutton said the district received $20,000 from the grant, which will be split up equally over three years. The grant money the district received this year was spent on upgrading the computer lab for the computer science program at HHS, according to Sutton.

Triad Highland School was also announced as a grant winner.

PLTW is a nonprofit organization that provides a transformative learning experience for K-12 students and teachers across the U.S. PLTW empowers students to develop in-demand, transportable knowledge and skills through pathways in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. PLTW’s teacher training and resources support teachers as they engage their students in real-world learning.

The grants are part of Astellas USA Foundation’s Rural Spark ProjectTM which seeks to change STEM education in targeted rural areas for middle and high school students by supporting teacher training and exciting hands-on learning opportunities in the classroom and the community.

“Project Lead The Way is proud to partner with Astellas USA Foundation to ensure that students and teachers in Illinois’ rural communities have the same access to high-quality STEM education as their urban and suburban peers,” said PLTW president and chief executive officer Dr. Vince Bertram. “All students, regardless of race, gender, geography and socioeconomic status, need a strong foundation in science and technology. With Astellas USA Foundation’s support, we will help ensure that all students have the in-demand knowledge and skills they need to thrive in our rapidly evolving world.”

PLTW’s programs in computer science, engineering and biomedical science engage students in hands-on, real-world learning opportunities that empower them to develop essential, in-demand knowledge and skills, while also providing them with real-world connections between what they learn in the classroom and how it applies to the paths they’ll take in the future. Grants made possible by Astellas USA Foundation support implementation of the PLTW Gateway program for middle schools and the PLTW Computer Science, PLTW Engineering and PLTW Biomedical Science programs for high schools.

Access to these types of experiences is critically important as opportunities abound for students, with jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields expected to grow at a rate double those of other fields. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects more than 1.3 million job openings in math and computer-related fields by 2022.

“Since 2015, Astellas USA Foundation has supported STEM programming in over 53,700 schools nationwide. Through the Rural Spark Project, Astellas USA Foundation is impacting young minds by providing STEM-related learning not currently available in their communities,” said Moyra Knight, Astellas USA Foundation president. “By working with Project Lead The Way, we’re able to offer students today the type of skills and thinking needed to become the scientists, mathematicians or coders of tomorrow.”