Federal grant to create a STEM school will pay off for students and business - The Buffalo News

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Federal grant to create a STEM school will pay off for students and business

Buffalo Public Schools recently received fantastic news that will bolster the district’s efforts to provide students with more science, technology, engineering and math skills.

A $3.9 million federal grant to convert Martin Luther King Multicultural Institute into a fifth- through 12th-grade school specializing in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is the juice that will power that school and propel students into solid careers. In a district where so much is going wrong, this is a huge win for students.

Buffalo rose to the top, winning one of 24 Youth Career Connect Grants in competition with about 275 other districts and also receiving a grant that was proportionally much larger than other districts. The school’s future – and that of its students – is bright.

Martin Luther King Multicultural Institute, at 487 High St., will be allied with the nearby Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus so students can get a better picture of potential high-tech careers. The school also will create a natural networking relationship for its students and, in turn, give industry a pool of students who have been pursuing STEM careers from grade school through high school and then college.

That synergy between school districts, colleges and the job training system is the aim of the program established by the U.S. Department of Labor in conjunction with the Department of Education. As Superintendent Pamela C. Brown said, this doesn’t impact just students in the district but the entire city because it prepares students for good careers in the Buffalo community.

The new school could open as soon as this fall, according to Brown, serving fifth, sixth, ninth and 10th grades. Within two years, it will serve grades five through 12 and enroll between 600 and 650 students. The school will be renamed, but the new name will also honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

School Board member John B. Licata has been pushing since last summer to turn the school, which had been failing to meet standards for years, into a facility specializing in STEM education. It was a good idea that last month finally found its way when the School Board narrowly approved a plan to convert King Multicultural into a STEM school.

It was a good move and one that will be supported by other STEM efforts around the district, including yet another grant the district was awarded – this time a $199,000 grant by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to support students in green technology and energy programs at Olmsted School 156 and McKinley High School.

And in a big nod to the theory that it isn’t the school that makes the students but the students that make the school, a team of three eighth-graders at Futures Academy located in the city’s Fruit Belt section made its mark in the recent 2014 National Engineers Week Future City Competition.

Thirteen-year-old Karion Carter and Johnathen Nelson and Zwanie Wright, both 14, created an award-winning model metropolis that stood up against 15 other teams from 12 Western New York schools. They represented the only Buffalo public school in the engineering challenge and earned one of the Top 5 spots as regional finalists.

If that wasn’t enough, the group won the award for the most innovative transportation system, and Karion received an individual award for promise in science and engineering.

These young people, who come from an environment where the statistics and socioeconomic forces are against them, worked alongside graduate students from the University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning as part of a yearlong program sponsored by UB’s Center for Urban Studies during school, sometimes after school and on Saturdays.

Their hard work and perseverance paid off. They have made everyone proud.

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