The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) representative at a recent roundtable discussion held by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the White House Rural Council had a chance to share how the Atlanta-located Georgia Tech unit is working to reach out to the state’s rural students.
Organized by the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden, the roundtable discussion centered on the Obama Administration’s goals of the U.S. Department of Education’s investing in rural schools and the Rural Jobs Accelerator. Mindy DiSalvo, a senior research associate working with STEM@GTRI’s science, technology, engineering and math educational initiatives, was invited to speak on Georgia Tech’s behalf.
Existing STEM@GTRI initiatives have impacted more than 1,000 students in rural communities, DiSalvo said. Additionally, GTRI has supported a USDA proposal that, when implemented, will equip classrooms in nine rural school systems with technology and software applications that will enable them to connect with GT laboratories.
“When funded, this program will have the potential to reach thousands of students, most of whom are in schools with an average 28 percent graduation rate, and in communities that have been consistently impoverished for at least 20 years,” DiSalvo said.
Through Georgia Tech’s Direct to Discovery (D2D) program, researchers at GTRI are able to connect with kindergarten through 12th-grade students in their classrooms. This program helps to introduce students to STEM content, college opportunities and careers.
“Our researchers can provide context to the science and technology curriculum and why students should be learning it,” DiSalvo said. “When we are able to share our researchers with classrooms, student invariably say ‘Oh. Now I see why I need to know this.’”
GTRI is no stranger to assisting with educational outreach. GTRI was instrumental in developing the Family Technology Resource Centers in DeKalb County, Georgia, a few decades ago. During his administration, President Bill Clinton gave the FTRC a permanent place in the Smithsonian Institution as an example of an effective community outreach program.