"Fort Polk is vital to the area. We hope to unite
the installation and the surrounding communities
to care for its soldiers and their families. It's our
-Michael Reese, Fort Polk Progress President
Currently, the United States is ranked 25th in math and 17th in science against other industrialized peers.
Recently, the Vernon Parish School District has made major strides in fulfilling the nation’s need for more focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Funding from the Rapides Foundation and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) totaling $3 million have helped Vernon Parish students achieve remarkable goals in these fields.
“Our country has been riding a wave of being best for a while. However, we are not the best in math or science any longer,” said Jerome Henson, a Pitkin High school teacher who helped write the grant proposal to secure STEM funding in the district. “These two subjects are crucial to staying the best in manufacturing, military, and all the other pieces of the puzzle that make our country a free place to think, live, worship, and pursue our lives as we intend. STEM is focused squarely in saving this country before the lamp of exceptional thinking skills is extinguished.”
Indeed, that lamp is burning ever brighter in Vernon Parish, with the help of an extraordinary teacher and the recent accomplishments of some of her students.
To Donell Evans, STEM education is the foundation of our future.
Evans is more than just a science teacher at Leesville High School; she is the school’s STEM representative, AP chemistry and biology teacher, and head of the science department. Over the past five years, Evans has worked to increase the quality of, and access to, more science classes and events such as science fairs.
In 2014, Evans will be sending her third set of students since becoming at teacher at Leesville High to compete in the International Science and Engineering Fair. The fair is the world’s largest pre-college event of its kind, and includes students from over 70 countries and territories, with over 1,600 students.
Additionally, Evans is bringing more classes to Leesville High School to better prepare students for the real world and prepare them for higher education.
“So many people are alive today because of the technology and knowledge we have gained from scientific advances. To even maintain the human race at its current growth rate we depend on science and technology,” she said.
Robert Rose Jr. and Austin Young were selected to attend the International Science and Engineering Fair in California May 11-15, 2014.
The two are competing in the Engineering Biochemical Division for over $4 million in awards. More than 1,600 students from 70 countries, regions, and territories from around the world present innovative, original, and advanced projects at the fair each year, all fighting for placement in their divisions, with their eyes on the prize of 1st place overall.
“I don’t think it really sunk in how prestigious an opportunity this was until Ms. Evans told us how many students from our school have been in the past,” said Rose. “I’m very honored to represent Leesville High School and the state of Louisiana with this opportunity.”
Rose and Young’s project, a scrubber of sorts, is designed to decrease pollutants in the environment and help industrial plants to become more profitable.
The two weren’t the only Leesville High School students recognized for their efforts in 2014. Jesse St. Clergy and Josh Shelton were invited to attend the ISEF as student observers for their invention, a glove with therapeutic uses.
These two have their goals set to improve their project and earn the opportunity to attend ISEF next year as participants.