The Lynchburg regional area is well known in the commonwealth and nationally as an area of exceptional collaboration. The new XLR8 STEM Academy exemplifies this tradition reaching across school divisions, technical industry leaders, workforce and economic development entities, and higher education to bring together an innovative opportunity for area students.
Collaboration was always known to be the cornerstone of the STEM Academy from the inception of the concept over a year ago. The planning committee understood that beginning a new program under the current economic climate would be extremely challenging. School divisions and localities have been faced with some of the most difficult budget decisions in decades. The decision to push forward with the concept came from a great need vocalized from the private sector for a technically skilled workforce. Elizabeth Narehood, Managing Director of the Future Focus Foundation stated,
“Not only is there a present need for a technically skilled workers, but the forecasts show an even more ominous workforce picture for industry. ”
School division superintendents and CVCC embraced the STEM Academy as an opportunity to offer local students coursework relevant to future careers and provide a jump-start to occupational aspirations through industry certifications and dual enrollment opportunities.
An initial need existed to hire a Director of the Academy and raise planning dollars to move forward with the concept. Several area entities have come forward to support the continued development of the Academy. The Workforce Investment Board began the call to action by including STEM Academy planning support dollars in an application for a Workforce Investment Act incentive grant. The WIA incentive grant was awarded to the Region 2000 Workforce Investment Board during the summer of 2012.
Education entities that have provided financial support include Campbell County Schools and Central Virginia Community College. Private industry contributors have included Centra Health, AREVA, Delta Star, and AMTI. In-kind contributions have proved to be just as valuable to the project bringing combined totals raised in support to over $100,000. Central Virginia Community College has graciously offered to house the XLR8 Academy and provide office space to the Director. Lynchburg City Schools will serve as the fiscal agent and provide Human Resource support to staff. Other in-kind supporters include the Region 2000 Technology Council and Future Focus Foundation who continue to donate staff time and travel to seeing the project through to completion.