By Douglas Moser
---- — Lawrence, Methuen and Haverhill are among about a dozen cities to receive education grants for career and English language programs totaling about $3.4 million statewide, the governor’s office said.
The grants are designed for Gateway Cities to cut away at the educational achievement gap between them and the state as a whole, and focus on English language learners and career academies.
Lawrence and Methuen are set to receive $40,000 each in grants for career academies, which are designed to expose students to jobs in different fields, both in class and outside school. The academies bring in professionals from businesses in certain industries to talk to kids in the classroom, and can establish apprenticeships and internships with the goal of pointing them toward higher education and employment opportunities they may not have considered.
Methuen’s grant will go toward developing a biotech/engineering career academy, with the school working with Lucent Technologies, Pfizer, Lahey Clinic, Jean D’Arc Credit Union and Northern Essex Community College. High school science teacher Melissa Tobin began developing a biotech program several years ago and watched it grow to 120 students.
She and associate principal Maria McLaughlin have been working to expand it into a career program that would involve Boston area biotechnology professionals from companies like Pfizer and Lucent Technologies.
“It’s having professionals come in and teach different topics based on how real life works, how they do it in industry,” Tobin said. “It’s teaching how they actually do it. That was our application, making it real for the kids.”
Massachusetts is an obvious place for a high school vocational biotechnology program, with the range biotech companies in Boston, Cambridge, Waltham and along the 128-corridor, she said.
Lawrence’s academy will focus on careers in manufacturing, health and human services, and innovation/entrepreneurship for small businesses, and partner with the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, Lupoli Companies, Northern Essex Community College, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
“We have health care programs, biotech and engineering, and we just started a manufacturing program. So this fits perfectly,” said Ernie Greenslade, a spokeswoman for NECC.
Haverhill received the largest grant in the area, $296,500, for a five-week summer enrichment academy for English-learners at the middle and high school levels. The program will focus on literacy, writing skills and math for the city’s 600 English language learners in kindergarten through grade 12.
Haverhill Superintendent James Scully said the district is in the process of developing the summer school program, which will be at the high school. All English-learner students will be “strongly encouraged” to participate,” the superintendent said.
“There’s generally a lot of interest in these programs anyway,” Scully said. “We expect a high level of participation.”
UMass-Lowell, Girls Inc. of Haverhill and NECC are partnering with the school district in the summer school initiative, said Education Secretary Matthew Malone, who wrote the grant proposal.
The grants are part of Gov. Deval Patrick’s Gateway Cities Education Agenda, which he first proposed in November 2011, and are intended to close persistent achievement gaps that disproportionately affect students living in lower-income communities, students of color, students who are English language learners and students with disabilities in the Commonwealth’s 24 Gateway Cities.
This year’s state budget included $3.5 million in new funding to support the Gateway Cities Education Agenda. “The focus of the Gateway Agenda, and our number one priority in education, is creating opportunity for every child in the Commonwealth regardless of his or her background or circumstance,” Patrick said. “These targeted supports for students will help us close achievement gaps more quickly and ensure that all of our students are prepared for success in the classroom and beyond.”
Gateway Cities are communities in Massachusetts with income and achievement levels below the state average.
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