BRUSLY — Dow Louisiana Operations announced Wednesday the company’s foundation is committing $200,000 to the West Baton Rouge Parish school system to establish its own science, technology, engineering and mathematics academy this fall.
West Baton Rouge’s STEM programs will be offered at Brusly and Port Allen high schools starting in August, exposing students to a state-approved STEM Pathway curriculum involving engineering, process technology and industrial maintenance.
“This is going to cover a lot of things we’ve only been talking about before but will now be able to put something in the hands of our kids,” School Superintendent Wesley Watts said at Wednesday’s announcement outside of Brusly High School.
The announcement comes about a month after Iberville Parish revealed it is launching its own STEM-like academy in the fall, as well.
Establishing a STEM academy is also an ongoing desire among leaders in the Pointe Coupee Parish school system.
Dow spokesman Abby Cook said STEM-related jobs are in higher demand than they’ve been in the past.
“We want local students to have the training and education they need to find fulfilling, high-paying careers here in the place they call home,” Cook said in a news release.
Judea Goins-Andrews, director of school engagement with Project Lead the Way, is working with the school system on the program design.
Project Lead the Way is a nationwide nonprofit organization that helps school districts develop project-based science, technology, engineering and math programs. Goins-Andrews said the demand for jobs in the STEM field will continue to increase in the future.
“We still have a demand for STEM jobs even during times of economic recession,” she said. “A recent study showed there are 2.5 STEM jobs for every unemployed person in the state. We’re trying to cultivate STEM talent to fit that need.”
Goins-Andrews added, “It’s not about engineers, though. … It’s about cultivating critical thinkers of the future.”
The school system is already taking applications for this fall’s inaugural classes on both campuses. The approximately 25 students selected for each school STEM program will have to meet certain behavioral and academic standards.
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.