Colorado students will now have the opportunity to earn an endorsement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (which is often referred to as STEM) thanks to the efforts of West Grand’s K-8 principal, Jess Buller and his colleague, Elaine Menardi, the education program coordinator for Wings Aerospace Academy.
Through their work with America Achieves, Colorado Educator Voice Fellowship program, Buller and Menardi envisioned high school graduates who would leave high school with an endorsement in STEM after completing a rigorous capstone project in one of the areas of STEM.
In a bipartisan effort, the HB17 1201 was sponsored by Colorado lawmakers – State Representative James Coleman, Senator Kevin Priola and Senator Rachel Zenzinger and passed the House Committee on Education unanimously and later passed through the House and Senate and became law with Governor John Hickenlooper’s signature last week.
In the Education Committee session earlier in March, Representative Coleman outlined that the endorsement could aide the Colorado workforce by preparing students to enter into careers related to STEM. He cited the current population boom is driven by the need to recruit highly qualified workers that Colorado schools are struggling to produce especially in the areas of STEM. According to the Colorado STEM Advisory Council, 55% of all “top jobs” require skills in STEM from healthcare, IT, construction and engineering.
Representative Coleman says the endorsement allows students to show postsecondary education and employers that they come equipped with skills in the area of STEM.
School Districts will have to define what their particular endorsement and capstone requirements will be, but Buller and Menardi believe this achievable for rural districts as well.
Testifying on behalf of the bill during the House Committee on Education hearing, were West Grand Middle School students Alex Schake and Jesus Dominguez and their respective parents Kelley Rice and Shavanh Romero who gave their perspective on what this endorsement meant for students graduating from a rural area.
Seventh grader, Schake said, “This will show colleges that I work hard in school and have big goals.”
Her mom, Rice, followed these sentiments, “The STEM Diploma Endorsement will benefit my daughter and others like her because it will distinguish her from other students by giving her the opportunity to demonstrate that she has mastery of the material and can apply it across subjects and through life. This would also give her defined milestones as she works her way through school that will keep her focused on the desired path and open up doors for her in college and beyond.”
Rice finished by saying the endorsement encourages student ownership of their own set of circumstances, “What a wonderful way for them to be rewarded based on the amount of effort they put into their education… That is the beauty of this Bill.”
Dominguez, a seventh grader at West Grand, already has his eye on the future, “In the future, I plan to attend higher education to obtain a job in the business field as a wealth management advisor.”
He endorsed the Bill for his rural school, “…Some rural or small rural schools are not provided with the resources for the STEM diploma endorsement to be a possibility. A lack of resource means two things: 1.) my school has to get more creative in how it pushes me to excel and 2.) my school has to take a close examination in how it needs to step up its programming. This is a win-win situation for students like me.”
Romero, the mother of three children with Jesus being her eldest, also supported the Bill, “The Capstone Project is a great way for each student to conduct better research in preparation for his or her career, not only to show what they have learned and know, but how they plan to use it.”