By Collin Brooks
A large group of Liberty Bell students were honored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation for completing the foundation’s Achieving Tomorrow STEM Scholars course. The online course instructor was Liberty Bell’s Jordan Blackburn and he taught the students through a unique digital course that uses online gaming and simulations to teach critical technology and coding skills. The course also exposes students to STEM career opportunities they may otherwise not see.
Blackburn said he is extremely proud of what the students have accomplished.
“It was very challenging for the kids and it’s a lot of material that they haven’t experienced before, especially the binary numbers,” he said. “It’s math and it’s complex math and it is something that they are going to use in high school and college, so it’s a good introduction.”
That coding will come in handy in the quickly evolving technology driven job force. Nearly 15 of the 20 fastest growing occupations require math or science preparation, according to the most recent 10-year employment projections by the US Labor Department.
Liberty Bell Principal Tammy Pearce said that Blackburn and his classes worked hard to achieve their certification.
“Over the past few months our students have learned about critical technology and coding skills, as well as career opportunities in STEM,” she said. “Some of those opportunities we didn’t even know were available.”
Dr. David Timbs, Johnson City School System’s Supervisor of Instructional Technology, took time to praise the students accomplishments, saying it was nothing short of amazing what they were able to accomplish in such a short time. He said that having programs like this in the classroom are critical and he mentioned an eye-opening statistic, as he said that 60 percent of the jobs that class of 2030 will work have not been invented yet.
“And 60 percent of the jobs that you embark on after you get done at Science Hill, will involve some sort of STEM application,” Timbs told the students. “We want you to be building your critical thinking skills and continuing to grow.”
The US Chamber of Commerce represents three million people all over the country, Senior Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Cheryl Oldham said. She said they take time to think what companies might be looking for in the future and that is why a sponsored STEM curriculum makes sense for them, helping students remain on the cutting edge of what jobs are expecting from them.
“Now when you enter the workforce you will be prepared and you may have also been introduced into some careers you weren’t familiar with,” Oldham said. “We really hope this has opened your eyes and has given you some exposure to unique opportunities.”
Isabella Johnson and Amisha Agrawal, the two Achieving Tomorrow STEM Scholar Student Ambassadors for Liberty Bell, took time to say the program helped them gain a better understanding of the fields available in science, technology, engineering and mechanics.
Johnson City Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gary Mabrey was on hand to congratulate the students on completing the course and he said he hopes it would help them in the future.
“I want to stay connected with the future and I am looking at it,” Mabrey said to the crowd of Liberty Bell students. “Someday you will be in charge and someday you will be running this world, notice I didn’t say this community, because you will be running this world.”
As part of the Foundation’s Achieving Tomorrow initiative, the program brings engaging, interactive Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education to middle and high schools in Tennessee, Michigan, West Virginia, and Texas, at no cost to the schools. The program is in partnership with education technology provider EverFi, Achieving Tomorrow STEM Scholars has reached more than 1,300 students nationwide.
Liberty Bell officials said they hope to expand the program next year and they are receiving a lot of positive feedback from parents of children in the program.