If you are currently or have ever been the parent of a seventh grader, you know that getting them to move away from things that are most familiar to them is a tough job. Imagine having a seventh grader who is not being challenged by his local school district and the opportunity presents itself to pull him out of the place where his friends are and transport him to Kettering, Ohio to participate in a new STEM school. (Science Technology Engineering and Math)

Amy Henry and her husband Patrick needed to find a way to challenge their son Jonathan when he was in the seventh grade at Tecumseh Middle School. He was participating in some “gifted” classes back then but in his experience, the teachers were assigning homework from the notes they were putting on the board. You went home and did the homework and that is pretty much it for the average classroom experience in the view of most young people. When Jonathan moved to The Dayton Regional STEM School he said “I wasn’t sure at first” knowing that the concept of the classrooms was to participate in Project Based Learning, a new concept at the time. He explained that when he entered the world of STEM, “it was very different”. The teachers no longer lectured, but presented a concept and then by using projects in the classroom, students learned that concept and demonstrated their knowledge to the teachers.

Over the years, Jonathan has excelled in the program at Regional STEM. He has been able to take elective courses and choose a direction for his course of study. He admits that at first he had an interest in mechanical engineering, but because he could participate in job shadowing and internships, he soon learned that he wants to pursue a career in computer science. “I have certification in networking” said Jonathan of his latest accomplishment as a senior at Regional STEM. He reports that with this certification he could easily leave high school and acquire a job making around $50,000 but he has no intentions in ending his studies.

In the fall, Jonathan will join the freshman class at the University of Dayton where he will live on campus and have a generous scholarship. “I am just an average guy” he said modestly, but anyone who scores a 35 on the ACT is above average on a college application. He noted that he did not apply to any other colleges and that he does not have a 4.0 GPA. He is looking beyond the major of computer science and thinking about a dual major in business at UD. Sinclair and Wright State partner with Regional STEM to provide college credit to their students which will transfer to the university of their choice upon graduation.

At Regional STEM and the Global Impact STEM Academy in Springfield, the students are able to work toward completing college credits as they enter the final two years of their education. For Jonathan, part of his education also involved completing a portfolio that showed the work he has done during his time at Regional STEM. This is often used when individuals seek to enter post secondary education or move to the interview process in seeking employment. By participating in networking, internships and job shadowing, Jonathan reports that he has been able to make connections with local businesses and staff at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. He also has had the opportunity to learn a great deal about what is available to students who participate in the STEM programs.

When asked if his mother did the right thing and how he feels about her encouragement to leave his comfort zone close to home, Jonathan responded “ I have grown to be thankful for what she has done”. Jonathan did not miss out on any of the typical senior events such as prom or a graduation ceremony as Regional STEM offers all of those typical activities to their students. Students do not have the opportunity to participate in sports at the school, however Jonathan has participated in recreational baseball in his hometown of Parke Layne.

When he began his educational journey, he was one of only five kids on the bus that transported the Tecumseh Local students to Kettering. “It is a really good school” said Jonathan and he recommends that parents take a look at what the Dayton Regional STEM School and the Global Impact STEM Academy have to offer students who would thrive in a project based learning classroom. Both schools offer middle and high school programs.

To learn more, visit the school web sites at www.daytonstemschool.org or www.globalimpactacademy.org