New Missouri program links business leaders, students

Friday, April 13, 2007

CREVE COEUR, Mo. (AP) Gov. Matt Blunt joined two dozen eighth-graders Friday in launching a pilot program that enlists business executives to help motivate students and get them interested in math and science.

Speaking at Monsanto Co.'s corporate office in suburban St. Louis, Blunt said the Show-Me Scholars program is one way to help students get the kind of education that will help them land high-paying technology jobs.

The main message business leaders will send to students is to take difficult classes -- even if it means getting fewer A's.

"The best way for students to get a great education is the challenge themselves," Blunt said.

The program, which is taking place at four school districts -- Jennings, Mexico, Rockwood and Houston -- is funded by a $300,000 U.S. Department of Education grant.

Organizers hope to enroll 23 additional schools next year, said Missouri Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Karen Buschman. The chamber is already raising money to fund future years so the program remains free to taxpayers, she said.

Blunt was joined Friday by students from Rockwood and Jennings schools. They also toured a science fair featuring Monsanto's genetically-engineered plants.

Rob Fraley, Monsanto's chief technology officer, said Missouri needs more programs to move students into math and science classes so the state can fill research and engineering jobs in coming decades.

"Where is that next wave of scientists going to come from?" Fraley asked the students. "The answer is probably simple -- it's going to be you."

The Show-Me Scholars program is part of a national initiative being used in 24 states. The idea is to show kids real-world examples of people who use math and science education in their everyday jobs.

Boeing Co. engineer Candice Smith is representative of the speakers who are already visiting classes in the four pilot school districts. She said that while she didn't always get the best grades in high school and college math classes, choosing to study in the field helped her land a meaningful job she loves.

"Math taught me absolutely how to think," she said. "It taught me how to persevere and how to ask for help."

Fourteen-year-old George Gooden of Jennings said he enrolled in the Show-Me Scholars program to eventually help him become a veterinarian.

"My favorite classes have been in science. I love hands-on experiments," he said.

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