The STEM jewel in Maine’s crown

12 years ago
By Luke Shorty

    You can’t go far in the education world today without hearing STEM, the acronym for “science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” It’s the phrase de jour for progressive educators and represents the growing call for public education to meet the workforce needs of an increasingly competitive, knowledge-based economy.

    The town of Limestone supported STEM long before the term came into vogue. In the early 1990s, an innovative group of local citizens pitched the idea of a residential, math and science magnet school to Governor McKernan. He liked it. The town then worked hard to sell the idea to the rest of the state, the established education community, and the legislature. Nearly two decades before the buzz about STEM, this was not an easy task. Fortunately, with the support of a strong Aroostook delegation and the hard work of the school’s administration, they succeeded.

 

    Since opening in 1995, the Maine School of Science and Mathematics (MSSM) has met and exceeded the highest expectations of its founders. We offer students cutting-edge experiential learning and we’re a state leader in science and mathematics education. In May, U.S. News & World Report ranked MSSM the 38th best public high school out of nearly 22,000 schools nationwide, and the ninth best magnet school.

    On behalf of MSSM’s students, parents, staff, and alumni, I wish to thank the people of Limestone and Aroostook County for supporting our institution so consistently for nearly 17 years.

    The University of Maine at Presque Isle has been an innovative collaborator. Recently UMPI and MSSM signed an agreement that will allow MSSM students to receive UMPI credit for select, advanced courses.

    In the years ahead, we look forward to building more partnerships within Aroostook County and continuing northern Maine’s history of STEM leadership.

    We also look forward to continuing to serve local students with a passion for learning. Whether attending our summer camps as middle school students or enrolling for high school, some of our finest students have come from Aroostook County: Jen Brophy of Portage Lake has just returned home to practice environmental engineering using the experience she gained at a firm in Virginia; Prasanth Prasanna of Presque Isle is practicing radiology in Oregon after a successful residency at the Maine Medical Center; Trevor Washington of Fort Fairfield is a programmer for Raytheon; Chuck Wilcox of Presque Isle designs software at BAE Systems; and Drew Bouchard of Fort Kent is teaching physics to the next generation of STEM leaders at Bangor High School. These individuals are just a few of the many talented, local students who have attended MSSM.

    Motivated high school students who enjoy a challenge, love to learn, are interested in math and science, and want to become part of a truly exceptional community of scholars thrive at MSSM.

    Attending MSSM is also a sound financial investment. The Class of 2011 received approximately $4.4 million in merit-based aid to attend college. That’s over $122,000 per student. Furthermore, nearly all of our students begin college having passed at least one Advanced Placement (AP) test.

    MSSM has openings for the 2012-13 school year and we encourage interested high school students from Aroostook County to apply.

    We also have exciting offerings for local teachers. This year we’re hosting a free professional development week for STEM educators in grades 6-12. The week will allow teachers to share their talents and techniques with one another and form a statewide community dedicated to improving student learning in STEM topics. The free educators’ camp will take place July 22-28. For more information, please call 207-325-3303 or e-mail mssmsummercamp@mssm.org.

    As students and educators enjoy summer, I hope you’ll join MSSM in looking ahead to a bright future for STEM education in Aroostook County.

    Luke Shorty is MSSM’s executive director and a member of the Class of 1998.