Okaloosa County Schools Superintendent, Eglin Air Force Base, and Hurlburt Field Leaders Launch $900,000 NMSI National STEM Program

Okaloosa County Schools Superintendent, Eglin Air Force Base, and Hurlburt Field Leaders Launch $900,000 NMSI National STEM Program

Leaders from Okaloosa County School District, Eglin Air Force Base, and Hurlburt Field announced a new partnership with an evidence-based, rigorous national STEM program at the October 14th School Board meeting. This is thanks to more than $900,000 in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Defense for a two-year College and Career Readiness Program from the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) that are being implemented at the three high schools (Choctawhatchee, Crestview, and Fort Walton Beach). NMSI is a nonprofit whose mission is to advance STEM education so all students, especially those furthest from opportunity, can reach their highest potential. NMSI has served more than 250 U.S. schools that have significant enrollment among military-connected students.

Choctawhatchee High School’s ROTC presented the Colors, Fort Walton Beach High School’s Voices of Valhalla sang the Star-Spangled Banner, and students from Crestview High School led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

“I am excited to announce our district’s partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA),” stated Superintendent Marcus Chambers. “Okaloosa County has 9,500 students whose parents are active-duty military or work on a local military installation. These students bring with them life experiences that enhance our school community. We appreciate the impact the military community has on our school district. I am excited to further our partnership with the military community through NMSI.”

Statistics show that members of the military who have school-age children move six to nine times before their children finish high school. Most of those 1.2 million military students nationwide attend schools around military installations, so they are exposed to numerous school systems. “Therefore, it is crucial we continue to have a strong relationship with our military community,” said Chambers. “I am proud of the exceptional partnership we share with both Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field’s leadership, military families, Department of Defense and other vested partners over the years. These partnerships strengthen our school community. We are expanding this relationship with our latest endeavor with NMSI. This initiative addresses the challenges our military students face through NMSI’s Military Families Mission. In combining its proven College Readiness Program and Laying the Foundation teacher training, NMSI is striving to serve not only the 2 million children of our nation’s active duty, reserve, and National Guard but also the 182 Okaloosa County students to ensure future generations have access to the education they deserve. The Okaloosa County School District appreciates NMSI and DoDEA and all that they bring to our district. I commend our leadership team, AP teachers, and AP students at Choctaw HS, Fort Walton HS, and Crestview HS for embracing this initiative. With a national focus on STEM Education, I wholeheartedly believe in how the NMSI program can benefit not only our military students but for ALL students in our community. In this district Everyone is important!”

As part of the grant, the three Okaloosa County Schools will receive the following from NMSI:

  • Teachers will receive comprehensive content-specific training, mentoring, and ready to use classroom and lab materials
  • Students will receive 3 content specific expert-led study sessions and a $100 gift card for each Math, Science, or English AP exam they pass
  • Schools receive help analyzing past AP data to set future AP goals to increase enrollment in AP courses and also target specific subgroups

“On behalf of Brigadier General Cain and Team Eglin, I'd like to start off by thanking you for the tremendous support that the Okaloosa schools provide our families, specifically our military children,” said Col Bryan Hogan, Deputy Commander, 96 Mission Support Group, Eglin Air Force Base. “I can tell you that it is an awesome reassurance when you know that your children are taken care of. It lets us focus on our mission here as well as when we do what we do when we're deployed. So thank you. As Mr. Chambers said, we have a phenomenal partnership and it's very evident. One prime example is a year ago almost to the day with the transition of our Tyndall families, your schools bent over backward to make sure that that transition was the least amount of pain possible for those families after Hurricane Michael. So thank you. Obviously, another example of this partnership is this grant. We are very thankful and will definitely utilize it and look forward to continuing to work with you all. Thank you for the amazing partnership.”

“You have accepted the challenge of increasing the rigor and the quality of a school program that will reach not only military children but is accessible to all of the kids that are in your schools,” said Ed Veiga, Senior Director, DoD & Military Families Mission, NMSI. “I typically start off with a learning exercise, but the Superintendent beat me to it and that's to explain to people that we are NMSI because the other names just too long, too hard to tell. I want to tell you that you and your high schools have stepped up to meet an incredible challenge and that's to make sure that our kids are college and career ready in the STEM fields. By pursuing AP, Advanced Placement, as a measure, it means that they're competing on the same level as kids across the nation. Your schools here constitute as of this year a total cohort of 256 DoD schools. We have served over 1,300 schools nationally and 38 states. What starts to develop here is a continuum of not only parents and students but teachers and educators across the nation who begin to communicate about a common program and that program is increasing the rigor and the quality of education in all our schools. So thank you to certainly our principals for stepping up to take the challenge, and Superintendent Chambers, this will be great. This is a leader program and it succeeds because of the leaders. Thank you to Board members for providing the support and encouraging your school leaders to step up and do the harder thing. As always we want to thank our military partners who are such a part and will be such a big part of not only the education program here but hopefully growing mentoring opportunities and ensuring that our kids know what's out there. We will also be sharing with our School Liaison teams the other opportunities that become available to all the kids who are part of this program who get to enjoy it. That includes internships in DoD labs and there are scholarship programs, the Smart Scholarship Program supported by the DoD, so it opens the doors to a host of opportunities.”

To see a photo gallery of this event, please visit the OCSD Facebook page.

For more information about this program, please contact:

  • Stephanie Thetford, Secondary Math Specialist, Okaloosa County School District, 850-833-6313, thetfords@okaloosaschools.com
  • Angela Chambers, National Math and Science Initiative,214-525-3046, achambers@nms.org,  cell: 972-989-6370