Pittsylvania County adds STEM Career Academy for 9th and 10th graders

Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 4:24 PM EST
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PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Freshman and sophomore students can now explore careers in STEM through hands-on learning in Pittsylvania County.

The new two-year program at the STEM Academy will offer career pathways in advanced manufacturing or health and medical sciences.

“It’s important to give them exposure to these opportunities so that they’re not waiting until that junior and senior year trying to make those informed decisions of what career interests they have,” said Angela Rigney, Director of Career and Technical and Adult education.

Prior to this year, 9th and 10th graders visited the STEM academy on field trips.

They now have the opportunity to earn high school credit while learning about welding, automation and robotics, health care, and more through an application process.

“We are trying to get that pipeline of students for future employers and our surrounding areas and companies,” said Sonya Soyars, Advanced Manufacturing Academy teacher. “We have our 11th and 12th grade program, and we also have our career connection courses through GO TEC at the middle schools. So, there was a gap there for ninth and 10th graders.”

All students will also take a hands on, applied science course.

“We always tell our students, even if you don’t grow up to be a scientist, doing science is so important for your brain development and learning to think scientifically,” explained Karen Holshouser, STEM Academy Science teacher. “So, we try to develop science thinkers in our program to make them better problem solvers in understanding how the world around us works.”

The STEM Academy will help prepare students for the 19 available pathways at career and technical center in 11th and 12th grade.

“Healthcare can be a little bit of an intimidating field to go into,” said Melanie Estes, STEM Academy Health Teacher. “So, the more you know before you go on to the next level really helps you to have confidence in what you’re doing.”

Applications for the 2023-2024 school year are due March 1 and can be found on the STEM Academy’s website. Students will be notified of admission at the end of this semester.