Story and photos by Bryan Gatchell, Fort Benning Public Affairs
COLUMBUS, Ga. — Based on the number of military Family children attending Muscogee County public schools, schools here received $414,925 to strengthen their Advanced Placement programs during a grant award ceremony at the Muscogee Public Education Center Nov. 7.
At the beginning of the event, members of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Shaw High School posted the colors, and choir members of Northside High School performed the African-American hymn “Peace Like a River.” Both Shaw and Northside high schools were the recipients of this Department of Defense-funded grant.
The College Readiness Program for Military Families is a collaboration between the DoD and the National Math + Science Initiative. The program aims to provide “military-connected students from coast to coast with the well-trained teachers, challenging Advanced Placement coursework, and strong foundation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects that will prepare them for the rigors of college and career, whether military or civilian.”
Col. Matthew Scalia, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning commander, attended the event and emphasized the need to provide military students increased opportunities, especially because of the demanding nature of military Family life.
“The challenges of military Families — moving, trying to establish new lives – is especially difficult for high school children,” Scalia said. “When we look at where we’re moving to next, one of the first things we do as military Families is look at the schools and the opportunities the school provides. So with this increase in AP classes and the STEM field, it provides that many more opportunities for Fort Benning Families.”
“We believe in the people, we believe in the teachers, and we believe in the fact that all children can learn, and we need to embrace that concept,” Harbison said. “We can make a huge difference in this wonderful place we call Georgia.”
Although the program is primarily aimed to increase opportunities for military children, any academically eligible student at Northside and Shaw high schools will also be able to take advantage of the more difficult coursework and thus benefit.
Georgia State Senator Ed Harbison, who represents Macon, Marion, Talbot, Taylor, Schley and portions of Chattahoochee and Muscogee counties, spoke at the event on behalf of Senate District 15.
Shannon Manion, manager of the Military Families Mission, thanked the schools and teachers. She also thanked the students for taking on the challenging Advanced Placement courses.
“I commend the students for taking on this challenge,” said Manion. “It’s just a window, one step toward that future career opportunity for them. And we need more problem solvers right now. That’s what this is about: creating more problem solvers who go out into the world and solve problems we as old people don’t even know exist yet.”
Manion presented the large novelty check of $414,925 to Dr. David Lewis, superintendent of education for the Muscogee County School District.
“This is an investment in our school, in our students and in our future,” Lewis said. “And I cannot think of a better way to spend time and money and effort than in preparing our students for the future of this country. I’m so proud to be in partnership with Fort Benning and the Department of Defense.”