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Four higher education institutions have partnered with the new Virginia Science Technology Engineering and Applied Mathematics (STEAM) Academy to create a new public residential high school. In addition to the Virginia Military Institute, Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University are also participating in the partnership.

Co-founders Judy Stewart and Caroline Martin declared that their mission for the school is "to nurture the next generations of creative, imaginative and ethical STEAM leaders who understand and respect the humanities." Stewart and Martin also noted that they hope their new academy will address the deficit of skilled workers for the 21st-century economy.

A study conducted in 2010 at Georgetown University found that by 2018, Virginia would need to fill over 400,000 STEAM-related jobs. Graduates of the new Virginia STEAM Academy may be able to step into those jobs.

AT&T recently published research on STEAM education and found that STEAM jobs are expected to grow at a rate almost twice that of other professions over the next few years. They also found that many high-paying STEAM jobs continue to be unfilled because candidates lack the skills necessary to do the job. In a country where unemployment is on the rise, it's important to start filling this skill gap.

Furthermore, the residential nature of the academy may help address the wide disparity in resources between districts in the areas of math and science. Students in all counties of Virginia will have an equal opportunity to attend Virginia STEAM Academy.

The limited exposure to a STEAM curriculum in certain areas of Virginia is a real problem, according to Stewart and Martin. The new academy will offer a comprehensive curriculum for capable students, regardless of their zip code.

This school is "an innovation on a proven model," Stewart said. There are 19 other public, residential high schools with a math and science focus in the country. North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics was the first of these schools. It has been named a top 100 high school in the country for the last 14 consecutive years. And all 100 counties in North Carolina are represented within their small student population.

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Published on: January 1, 2013