Posted: June 29, 2021 by Kelly Murphy-Redd
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

According to the U.S. Department of Education:
“In an ever-changing, increasingly complex world, it's more important than ever that our nation's youth are prepared to bring knowledge and skills to solve problems, make sense of information, and know how to gather and evaluate evidence to make decisions. These are the kinds of skills that students develop in science, technology, engineering, and math, including computer science—disciplines collectively known as STEM/CS. If we want a nation where our future leaders, neighbors, and workers can understand and solve some of the complex challenges of today and tomorrow, and to meet the demands of the dynamic and evolving workforce, building students' skills, content knowledge, and literacy in STEM fields is essential.  We must also make sure that, no matter where children live, they have access to quality learning environments. A child's zip code should not determine their STEM literacy and educational options.”

STEM offers the opportunity for students to obtain high-wage, impactful jobs. We say that a lot and it may seem as if a job is the end game. It really isn’t. A job enables citizens to support a family, secure shelter, put food on the table, clothes on their backs, pursue happiness and pass all of this onto the next generation. Jobs help create a stable community and society. Jobs obviously help maintain an economy where citizens can create, innovate and make a difference. If you read the education department definition above, STEM will help to create confidence, pride, opportunity and a brighter future.

Charter schools – publicly funded independent schools established by teachers, parents, or community groups under the terms of a charter with a local or national authority – are another great tool that have proven to help all children no matter their zip code. These schools have clearly proven that all children can learn, achieve and grow if given the right tools and instruction.  Two great examples of charter schools in Okaloosa County are Collegiate High School at Northwest Florida State College and Lisa Jackson Preparatory School (K-8).  Both schools are consistently cited as two of the highest performing found in our local area and beyond.  The soon to open Destin High School is also a charter school.

Meanwhile, Okaloosa County offers STEM programs in architecture, construction, engineering, technology, health science, manufacturing, web programming and a lot more. Students attending Okaloosa STEMM Academy (a public STEM-focused middle school that incorporates a second “M” - Medical into its curriculum) consistently place in the top 1% of all schools in Florida for math and reading proficiency.

Then there’s Okaloosa County School District’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, which allows students to earn high school credit, college credit, and industry certifications.  Not only do these programs prepare students for college, they provide them with in-demand skills.

Bottom line, charter schools and STEM programs like these can help foster vibrant economies and thriving communities through accelerated learning that align with the expectations of today’s employers.