MOUNT PLEASANT — The state’s biggest high school has one of the best STEM programs in the country, and a new award again has put Wando High in the national spotlight.
The school has been named a PRIME model school by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ Education Foundation, one of 11 schools from across the country to be selected this year.
A total of 26 schools nationally have been designated as model schools since 2011, with the honor going to schools offering a high-quality Science, Technology, Engineering and Math curriculum that prepares students for highly skilled manufacturing jobs.
PRIME model schools also have strong partnerships with local manufacturing businesses that offer students opportunities such as mentoring, tours, job shadowing and internships.
Wando High was the only school in South Carolina selected this year.
“Wando High has an exceptional manufacturing program,” said Jennifer Richmond, senior marketing specialist for the SME Education Foundation. “(The person who oversees PRIME schools) gushed over Wando High more than any of the schools that were nominated. If we get a chance to see a PRIME school, she wants Wando to be at the top of the list.”
David Roemer, dean of Wando High’s School of Math, Science, and Engineering, said this kind of recognition attracts attention, and he hopes it leads to more partnerships with companies in the community.
“We’re always looking for businesses to place students for internships,” he said. “Things like this are only going to benefit what we’re trying to do.”
The school will receive $15,000 during the next three years as part of the award, which the school can use for college scholarships for students, equipment upgrades, STEM-based summer camps for middle school students, and continuing education for teachers.
STEM education is growing in prominence in the Charleston County School District. The school district has been working with a high-profile group of partners, from federal labs to HBCUs to businesses, to make the district a national model for preparing students from kindergarten through college for STEM-related jobs.
Wando High’s STEM programs have been nationally recognized in the past. The school has been part of Project Lead the Way for more than a decade, and that program offers hands-on, project-based, biomedical and pre-engineering courses. Project Lead the Way has named Wando High a model school twice.
Roemer said the advent of Boeing and renewed interest in the manufacturing technology field led the high school to offer more courses in that area two years ago. Those since have grown, he said.
“This just seemed like a good opportunity for us to move along this track, and it’s great to have this recognition,” he said.
About 700 of the school’s more than 3,700 students enrolled at Wando have declared a major in the School of Math, Science, and Engineering.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.