UMES, County Partner To Broaden Focus

NEWARK – Math and
science students in Worcester County will get a boost through a new partnership
between county schools and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES).

According to a formal
agreement recently inked, Worcester County schools and UMES will support each
other in seeking grants and other opportunities, said Worcester Technical High
School (WTS) Principal Jane Pruitt.

The Board of Education
approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with UMES at its recent June

The idea is to create a
pipeline to higher education at UMES for Worcester County’s science,
technology, engineering and math (STEM) students and to provide high school
learning opportunities.

Channeling those
students to college education at UMES, Pruitt said, might keep students on the
shore after their studies.

While grant funding is
one potential benefit of the partnership, students will have a chance at
internships, summer learning and mentoring as well as STEM competitions,
separately and with UMES students.

The MOU also calls for
UMES professors and students to visit high school classrooms to speak about

Other outreach
activities that could come out of the partnership include continuing education
and teacher training.

Increased science
offerings at UMES will also increase opportunities for local students.

A few years ago, the
engineering program at UMES expanded from a two-year degree program to a
four-year degree program.  UMES is the
only college on the Eastern Shore that offers an engineering degree.

Now planning funds have
just been approved for a new engineering building, said Dr. Ali Eydgahi, chair
of Engineering and Aviation Sciences at UMES.

The engineering program
has received several votes of confidence, Eydgahi said, from a student who
moved back to the shore from the University of Maryland College Park to UMES
who worked on a satellite project out of Wallops Island spaceport to meetings
with NASA and White House staff.

“We’re getting
resounding results and positive feedback,” Eydgahi said.

UMES has also just added
a Doctor of Pharmacy post-graduate degree with the first pharmacy students
beginning their studies this fall.

The university is
attempting to fill a void for local students interested in studying STEM

subjects, said Eydgahi.               

The MOU reaffirms the
existing relationship between Worcester County schools and UMES and calls for
UMES to come to Worcester County schools first whenever there is an
opportunity, said Pruitt.

“It formalizes the
informal initiative that’s already occurring,” said Worcester Superintendent of
Schools Dr. Jon Andes.

The partnership with
UMES covers all STEM-related fields.

“Basically, this is more
opportunities for our students,” said Bob Hulburd, president of the Worcester
County Board of Education.

Worcester County’s
pre-engineering program is going strong, staff reported.

The WTS pre-engineering

program received praise from Project Lead the Way,  recently, Pruitt reported to the Board of Education.   

The WTS pre-engineering
program, in its second year, received national certification from Project Lead
the Way on the spot after the inspection, Pruitt said. Only three of the 25
high school pre-engineering programs in Maryland inspected were certified on the
spot, according to Pruitt.

Technical High School has demonstrated its commitment to the quality standards
of PLTW’s Pathway to Engineering program and the real winners are Worcester
Tech students,” said John Lock, President and CEO of Project Lead the
Way.  “Students are benefiting from an innovative curriculum that
encourages creativity and critical thinking and on top of that, they can earn
college credit for some of these courses.  We congratulate the entire
Worcester County community and look forward to many more years of working
together to prepare Worcester Tech students to become the most innovative and
productive in the world.”

The inspectors for
Project Lead the Way did note that the WTS program needs stronger female
enrollment, which currently stands at 38 percent.

“We have fallen short in
recruiting females and minorities,” said pre-engineering teacher Robert Dawson.
“That will receive extra attention in the coming months.”

The school system also
needs to extend summer STEM opportunities for ninth and tenth graders, who
currently have no access to camps or internships, unlike middle school students
and senior high students.

“We’re working on that,”
Pruitt said.

The WTS program begins
its third year in the fall with 60 students, 20 added each year.

“We’ve not lost a single
one,” said Dawson.

“The retention rates in
the program, it’s phenomenal what you’re doing there,” said Assistant
Superintendent of Instruction Dr. Dick Walker.

This fall the
pre-engineering program will offer three new classes: digital electronics,
civil engineering and computer manufacturing.

“Keep up what you’re
doing. It sounds like you’re doing a great job,” said Hulburd.