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President delivers keynote for STEAM Academy launch

Pennsylvania College of Technology President Michael J. Reed delivered the keynote address Wednesday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly launched River Valley School District’s STEAM (Science, Math, Engineering, the Arts and Math) Academy in Indiana County.

The academy, which is at the school district’s Saltsburg campus, about 35 miles east of Pittsburgh, is a workforce development initiative focusing on meeting the list of Pennsylvania in-demand occupations for high-priority occupations, as well as in-demand career pathways.

Penn College President Michael J. Reed delivers a keynote address near his western Pennsylvania roots, extolling the advantages of dual enrollment programs and predicting an "extremely bright" future for STEAM Academy students.
Penn College President Michael J. Reed delivers a keynote address near his western Pennsylvania roots, extolling the advantages of dual enrollment programs and predicting an “extremely bright” future for STEAM Academy students.

A collaborative effort featuring River Valley School District, based in Blairsville and serving 1,500 students across seven municipalities; trade and industry partners; and postsecondary institutions, the academy seeks to develop STEAM concepts in grades K-12, with deliberate courses delivered across middle school grade levels. Students then may obtain college credit through dual enrollment/college in high school credits (CIHS) while attending their other high school academic classes.

Reed, a native of Glenshaw, a suburb north of Pittsburgh, noted there are many similarities between the STEAM Academy’s educational approach and Penn College’s mission, which features hands-on learning in a variety of STEM-related majors. He recounted Penn College’s origin as a workforce education provider and evolution to a full-experience technology college focusing on delivering job-ready graduates for essential, high-demand occupations.

“As president of Pennsylvania College of Technology – a special mission affiliate of Penn State and a national leader in applied technology education – I am thrilled to see the same relevant principles that we embrace at our higher-education institution being endorsed and implemented here,” Reed said. “Industry needs more highly skilled applied technology experts, and when K-12 students are exposed to STEAM concepts from an early age, and begin to access coursework as early as the middle school level, it bodes well for the future of the workforce in the commonwealth and our nation as a whole.”

Students on the edge of success in the competitive 21st century job market cut the ribbon to officially launch the River Valley STEAM Academy in Indiana County. Helping to mark the occasion are (background, from left) President Reed; Connie Constantino, school board member; Rick Harper, board president; and Philip Martell, district superintendent.
Students on the edge of success in the competitive 21st century job market cut the ribbon to officially launch the River Valley STEAM Academy in Indiana County. Helping to mark the occasion are (background, from left) President Reed; Connie Constantino, school board member; Rick Harper, board president; and Philip Martell, district superintendent.

The president said the STEAM Academy, like Penn College, can play a significant role in dispelling the lingering “dirty jobs” myth surrounding many manufacturing-related occupations, while providing solutions to the persistent skill-gap issues posed by Baby Boomer retirements and the growth of automated functions in industry.

He also touted the benefits of dual enrollment programs that allow high school students to earn college credit for free, and the existing connections between River Valley School District and Penn College. He noted all STEAM Academy graduates will have access to a $2,000-per-year scholarship at Penn College, assuming they meet minimum scholarship criteria.

“While you are just getting started, your future is extremely bright,” Reed said. “Penn College now boasts higher than a 96% placement rate of graduates, with starting salaries well above state and national averages. Many of the industry partners you are networking with are also our partners, and several have Penn College graduates in key roles. We speak your language and understand the importance and urgency for innovative schools like yours to be successful. We are proud to partner with you.”

The first phase of the STEAM Academy program, which is available to students in grades 10-12 in 2022-23, offers classes in four main areas of study: cybersecurity, esports, electrical occupations, and sports medicine and rehabilitative therapy (SMaRT).

In subsequent years, the STEAM Academy will expand its course offerings to include welding technology, diesel, agriculture and teacher education, among others.

Photos by Randy J. Zangara, Penn College’s dean of college transitions and student success

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