By Steven Hoffman

Staff Writer

Dr. Margaret Billings-Jones, assistant to the superintendent of the Oxford Area School District, announced that the district recently was awarded a $35,000 grant that will allow Oxford to take part in Project Lead The Way, which is the nation’s leading Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program.

Billings-Jones made the announcement during a review of the district's initiatives at the Dec. 19 school board meeting. Oxford joins more than 5,000 schools across the U.S. that have received Project Lead The Way grants.

Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, Oxford will offer Project Lead The Way’s Pathway to Engineering program, which allows students to engage in open-ended problem-solving. Students will learn and apply the engineering design process, building strong teamwork, communication, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Students will, in some instances, use the same industry-leading technology and software as the world’s top companies.

In many cases, students have the opportunity to earn college credit while also preparing them for the postsecondary education and their careers.

The grant was made by possible by a donation from the Bemis Company, and the funds will be used to support the implementation of the Project Lead The Way engineering curriculum, including the purchase of materials and equipment that will be used. 

The grant application process is highly competitive for schools. To receive a grant, schools must demonstrate that they meet specific requirements and eligibility criteria, including professional development for teachers, technology acquisitions, a program sustainability plan, community support, and other factors.

“Project Lead the Way is committed to providing the highest quality STEM education to prepare today’s students for the global economy,” said Porject Lead The Way president and CEO Vince Bertram in a statement. “We are pleased to receive so many quality grant applications and we look forward to partnering with Oxford Area School District to prepare our nation’s next generation of innovators.”

Project Lead The Way is designed to inspire and engage students in STEM learning through four programs which span from kindergarten through 12th grade: Project Lead The Way Launch, designed for students in grades K-5; Gateway to Technology for middle school students; and Pathway to Engineering and Biomedical Sciences for high school students. Each program emphasizes the integration of core math and science topics with skills such as problem-solving, critical-thinking, and teamwork—the top in-demand skills identified by business and industry leaders for success in the global economy.

Billings-Jones said that the district will be looking for partnerships with engineering firms in the community. Teachers will also work collaboratively with university professors on Project Lead The Way curricullum.

The Project Lead The Way is one of several grants that Billings-Jones has sought since she joined the district five months ago.

She said that the district is also seeking a $60,000 grant that would be used to pay for a school resource officer to improve school security, as well as a $5,000 grant for technology and another $5,000 grant for communication equipment.

The district has already received funding for a seven-week strengthening families program. The first part of this program will focus on families that have English as a Second Language learners, while the second part will be conducted in English.

“We have a lot of grant opportunities and a lot of things going on,” Billings-Jones said.