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Sam Stalnaker, the Madison County School District Coordinator for Career, Technical and Alternative Education, and Ben Killingsworth, principal at the Madison County High School (MCHS) are serious about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education.
The US Department of Education created a Race To The Top contest in 2009, announced by President Obama, where all states could compete on a point system for federal funding to improve the US education system. Points were awarded for criteria set by the department that included categories such as improving effectiveness of teacher programs, adopting common statewide standards and demonstrating significant reform conditions. Florida was awarded $700 million in total grant money which resulted in a portion of that money making its way into Madison County schools. MCHS was able to latch on to $372,380 of those funds and as a result has enabled the high school to do positive things in the way of their Career and Technical programs, greatly improving the professional opportunity for graduates.
Stalnaker says career and technical programs are much more integrated with college preparation classes as opposed to the college track versus the vocational track of yesterday’s schools. Students today can earn industry certifications that will give them a head start in their professional careers by taking classes offered at not only the high school, but by having dual enrollment with other schools. Students interested in nursing could take courses at North Florida Community College or attend the Suwannee Hamilton Technical Center to receive a cosmetology certification. These are just two examples of how dual enrollment can propel a MCHS student above other graduates. Ben Killingsworth, the school’s principal said, “This is why our students will be able to succeed.”
One of the programs offered at MCHS that will allow students to earn two CTE credits and one science credit, as well as giving them an opportunity to take the certification test to become a Biotechnician Assistant, is the Industrial Biotechnology program taught by Paige Thomas. The program exposes students to a variety of laboratory equipment and gives them opportunity to learn proper techniques with skill sets necessary for employment in the biotechnology industry, such as professions in the medical field, agriculture, water management, or any other type of science. The program assists the college bound student by preparing them for college level biology, chemistry and microbiology.
In the Industrial Biotechnology program, students will be in labs learning chemical processes of cells, cell structure and function, growth and cultures for biotechnology, genetics, analysis, cell propagation and much more. MCHS also has a greenhouse project, where under the direction of Thomas, students learn seed and plant propagation and will ultimately grow their own vegetables and flowers.
Other programs offered at MCHS, where students can earn certifications, gain college credit for classes or prepare for employment are agriculture technology, allied health, digital design, web development, early childhood education, culinary arts and criminal justice. Stalnaker is proud of what MCHS is accomplishing and said, “Small counties can do the same things big counties can do, with (these) partnerships.”
Look for more Madison County High School Career and Technical programs to be covered in upcoming editions of this newspaper.