Grants to increase STEM education

State Representative Pam Snyder’s  office announced new PAsmart targeted grants Jan. 17, totaling more than $140,000. The grants are being awarded to three local school districts to help them make upgrades and give students a stronger background in STEM technology.

The PAsmart grants are specifically designed to assist smaller schools in keeping up with ongoing technological advancements necessary in a 21st century classroom.

Snyder said  the assistance of the PAsmart grants is crucial for these local schools, as STEM jobs continue to increase in value.

“As STEM jobs continue to grow at an exponential rate compared to other trades, it’s imperative that schools and the state invest in the education to prepare our students for family-sustaining jobs that will play a key role in sustaining and growing our local economy,” said Snyder. “Getting a head start on STEM will allow our kids to be successful innovators and leaders in science and technology.”

Dr. Helen McCracken, Superintendent of the Central Greene School District, leads one of three districts that received the grant. She finds the grant helpful in the development of students and preparing them for job opportunities both within and away from Greene County.

The funding is divided across three elementary schools including Waynesburg Central, Jefferson-Morgan and West Greene Elementary Center, and will also be applied to West Greene Junior/Senior High School. Each district will receive $35,000.

Snyder said assistance from the state is important, due to a low tax base that leaves Greene County with less funding than its surrounding areas.

“With a dwindling tax base across Greene County, assistance from the state to our local school districts is vital to the success of our students,” said Snyder. “This funding will help prepare students for the technology jobs of the future.”

McCracken said Waynesburg Central plans to utilize the grant to teach coding to kindergarten and first graders, as well as to “focus on syncing skills and problem solving.”

Snyder said the grant was made possible from an amount left specifically for STEM education in last year’s state budget.

“PAsmart grants were made eligible with the allocation of $30 million in last year’s state budget, with $20 million dedicated to schools for STEM education,” she said. “The other $10 million is dedicated to workforce development and private industry.”

As the schools move forward with the new PAsmart targeted grants and prepare to make the improvements, Snyder said she is glad the local education programs in Greene County value STEM and technology expansion.

“I’m encouraged that our local school districts recognize the importance of STEM and computer science education and that they took advantage of this money made available by the state,” said Snyder.