(Mobile, Ala.) Spring Hill College students from the Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS) this week participating in the JROTC STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Leadership Academy. Students are housed on campus during a residential summer camp that blends STEM instruction and hands-on STEM-based challenges with JROTC leadership activities such as rappelling and orienteering and career-focused visits to local industry sites and workplaces.
“Students not only learn leadership but develop an understanding of what career opportunities exist, particularly in a STEM domain, which helps with workforce development,” said LTC (Ret.) Robert F. Barrow, MCPSS Director of Army Instruction, and a Spring Hill alumnus (2008). “We partner with Hargrove Engineering, Austal, Mobile Area Water and Sewer System, Alabama Power, and many other local industries to provide hands-on training. We want students to know what opportunities are available to help them make informed, career choices.”
The STEM Academy was conceived as three distinct, interconnected layers to represent the hierarchical structure of the key components: (1) JROTC, (2) STEM Learning, and (3) Workforce Experiences. The foundation of the model lies in the JROTC character education curriculum and culture.
Barrow said, “We are so proud to be working with Spring Hill College to host the students here on campus. This is the eighth year in a row that we have been able to do this. When I talked with the leadership about my ideas and what I wanted to do, they were supportive and didn’t hesitate. This has been one of the most important aspects of this program, and here we are today.” Several recent SHC grads are employed as instructors for the program including DiMaya Evans ‘23 and Zariel Jordan ‘23.
The program is funded by a grant from the U. S. Department of Defense, which has been awarded to Mobile County Public Schools so that this JROTC STEM Leadership Academy can serve as a model for other school districts across the state and nation. The grant will allow MCPSS to expand the JROTC STEM Leadership Academy to 14 other school districts over a four-year period, turning it into a hybrid Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge impacting over 5,000 cadets, 350 cadre, and 275 STEM instructors. STEM activities will focus on maritime, advanced manufacturing, and aviation.
Louie Lopez is the Director of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense in Research and Engineering (OUSD/R&E), Defense Laboratories and Personnel. He had a chance to view this week’s activities first-hand and interview the student participants. “I’m happy to be able to see the impact that our funding is able to make on the students, the program, the community, and our future. Meeting with the students and staff gives me an opportunity to bring the grant applications to life and be able to better tell your stories to Congress, he said. “We are proud of the partnership with Spring Hill College and the program that MCPSS has put together. This program will serve as a model that will be replicated in other schools across the country.”
This grant is part of more than $47 million awarded to 15 education institutions and nonprofits under the National Defense Education Program (NDEP) in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), Biotechnology, and Enhanced Civics Education.
ABOUT SPRING HILL COLLEGE:
Founded in 1830, Spring Hill College is the oldest Catholic college in the Southeast and the third oldest Jesuit college in the United States. Spring Hill combines the Jesuit tradition of excellence in education and a commitment to caring for the whole person – mind, body and spirit – with innovative educational experiences. Located in Mobile, Ala., Spring Hill’s mission is to form leaders engaged in learning, faith, justice and service for life. As a result, Spring Hill students are engaged, inspired and transformed by their experiences.