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LaGrange College, Greenpower USA understand need for STEM

On Friday afternoon of last week, approximately 300 students were given scholarships to LaGrange College during the parent reception for the first annual DiversePower Grand Prix.

The Saturday Grand Prix was organized underneath the umbrella of Greenpower USA, a Huntsville, Alabama-based non-profit that is dedicated to enhancing the teaching and learning of science and technology. Greenpower USA is developing an electric car challenge, which supports the teaching and learning of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects via a hands-on, competition-based approach. The DiversePower Grand Prix was the first such event held in LaGrange.

Long Cane Middle School and Callaway High School, along with the neighboring Chambers County School District, are all Greenpower USA schools, joining a nation-wide list of schools who take part in the organization’s events.

LaGrange College committed to supplying each and every participant of the Saturday race with a $2,500 scholarship to attend the school. This amounted to a pledge of $750,000. While the likelihood is small that all, or even half, of the students in attendance will attend LaGrange College, the gesture and commitment from the college to supporting those students invested in STEM-related activities is telling.

“[LaGrange College] is a college that is very devoted to the STEM programs that all your young people are studying in this particular venue with the race,” LaGrange College President Dan McAlexander said on Friday. “We just invested $21 million in STEM across the last 3 years.”

This sentiment was also backed by LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton, who mentioned the future of the job market is closely tied to STEM education.

“If we are going to be a manufacturing center — not just in LaGrange but throughout the United Sates — we’ve got to have our children interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Thornton said. “Those are going to be the disciplines that the jobs of the future are built upon.”

The job market is ever-changing and rapidly evolving, and will look far different 10 years from now than it does today. It is imperative that our schools and education-based initiatives focus on those subjects and topics that can most reasonably and realistically be expected to benefit our students when they enter the professional world. It is great to see LaGrange College and the community at large recognize the need for forward-thinking education.