Vicksburg tapped for STEM project

Vicksburg has been selected as one of only two sites in the country to host the Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s $5.7 million initiative, the Vivian Burey Marshall STEM Pilot Initiative.

Named in honor of Justice Thurgood Marshall’s first wife, the VBM will engage students in under-represented and disadvantaged populations in Vicksburg and Baltimore, Md., in science, technology, engineering and math education – leading to both STEM literacy and an increase in the participation in the STEM workforce by leveraging existing relationships between local Army facilities and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

VBM’s most important outcome is to provide experiences and exposure to students that will lead to sustained interest in the STEM field.

Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Chad Shealy said the program aligns with the school district’s mission.

“The Vicksburg Warren School District is overjoyed to participate in the VBM. To be chosen as one of only two school districts in the country, and to be affiliated with such a prestigious organization as the Thurgood Marshall College Fund is both humbling and exciting,” he said. “We are excited to partner with Baltimore, Md., and schools in this opportunity, which would otherwise be outside our reach as a school district and a community.

“One of our goals at Vicksburg Warren School District is to provide world-class STEM opportunities for all students, and this program will give our underrepresented and disadvantaged students the tools and pathways to bring them to the forefront of STEM education.”

Shealy said the program will impact generations through the specialized training and systemic changes that will be introduced to VWSD.

“The options for our teachers to grow through professional development and enrichment activities will change the way we teach all students for years to come,” he said. “We are grateful to those organizations that will be assisting with this endeavor, specifically Alcorn State University, Jackson State University and the Engineering Research and Development Center of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund announced Dawna Taylor-Thornton as Executive Director and Principal Investigator of the initiative.

Taylor-Thornton brings an extensive background in education and will be responsible for launching this innovative pilot that will follow a cohort of students from sixth through tenth grade. Most recently, she served as the Director for Commonwealth Connections Academy Philadelphia and Harrisburg Midtown Learning Centers. Prior to her work with Connections, she served as the Director of Blended Learning Programs for one of the largest public cyber schools across the country, which operated in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

“We are fortunate to have someone like Ms. Taylor-Thornton head up this new initiative and help us reach students earlier in their development,” said TMCF’s Vice President of Programs, Scott Lilly. “This pilot is vital for K-12 students in encouraging them to consider STEM careers. With her vision and expertise, I am positive we have selected the right person to help TMCF develop and implement yet another successful component to our K-12 work.”

In partnership with the U.S. Army, TMCF will engage and support middle school students with year-round, out-of-school-time activities. Taylor-Thornton has already hit the ground running with her vision of increasing students’ interest and aptitude in the STEM subject areas – ultimately captivating them early and building a solid academic foundation with the likelihood students will remain in the field. Over the next few months she and her team will meet with school officials, families, and community members to gain a better understanding of their needs.

“Over the span of my career, I have touched the lives of many students and working with TMCF provides me with an opportunity to not only impact the lives of students but to help shape the future for communities and our world,” said Taylor-Thornton.

Source: Vicksburg Post