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Students Lead the Way to Economic Success

VERSAILLES, Ind. - Business leaders, students and their families received a first-hand look at the powerful learning occurring in southeast Indiana elementary, middle, and high schools Thursday evening during the first-ever Southeast Indiana Talent Showcase at South Ripley High School. Eighth-graders showed off their use of medical EKG equipment, while high school students and instructors showcased the robots they’ve been building.

The event, hosted by SE Indiana’s Economic Opportunities through Education by 2015 (EcO15), highlighted the on-going projects and initiatives in the fields of advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality and tourism. These are the major fields believed to be the drivers of economic growth in the ten counties—Franklin, Decatur, Bartholomew, Jackson, Jennings, Ripley, Jefferson, Switzerland, Ohio, and Dearborn—that make up Southeast Indiana by 2015 and beyond.

Students who demonstrated their projects are all enrolled in Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Pathway To Engineering, Biomedical Sciences, and Gateway To Technology programs. These students are engaged in rigorous hands-on classroom learning, and in many cases are designing and developing the products and patents of the future.

PLTW President and CEO Vince Bertram attended the event to present the keynote speech on the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and the role PLTW courses will play in ensuring SE Indiana’s economic growth.

“This goes well beyond learning out of a textbook,” said Bertram. “It’s critical to understand the rate of change, how quickly the economy is changing. Education must stay ahead of that for economic growth, workforce development, and the quality of life we all enjoy.”

Enrollment in PLTW courses in the ten-county SE Indiana region is up 578 percent since 2008. EcO15 Regional Council Chairperson Bud Walther told attendees it coincides with a four percent increase in the high school graduation rate and more than a $1,000 increase in the per capita income.

Bertram challenged the students to continue their quest for inspiration and learning. He closed by saying, “We can’t wait around for someone to give us the answers [to economic challenges]. The answer is in this room.”