SPARTA, NJ – More than 40 family members, Sparta staff and administrators gathered in the Sparta High School Media Center Wednesday morning as the 14 students of the first STEM Academy class received their white lab coats.

Introductions were made by Science Supervisor Marisa Wilson as the students entered the room with their teacher Sarah Pisano. 

Principal Janet Ferraro welcomed everyone giving thanks to Wilson and Pisano. In her remarks, Ferraro said these students “will be the thinkers, innovators and leaders of tomorrow.” She said the areas of science, technology, engineering and math are “projected to have the greatest increase in job opportunities.”  Graduates of STEM programs will graduate with higher scores and graduate from universities with degrees in the STEM field. In closing she said, “We look to you as our future leaders.”

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The student were then called to the podium to receive their white lab coats.  Pisano made closing remarks before inviting everyone to enjoy a light breakfast.

The supervisors Steven Schels, Mary Hassenplug, Chemistry teacher Angela Trzcinski, Assistant Principal Rory Fitzgerald, Assistant Superintendent Dr Daniel Johnson, Business Administrator Barbara Decker attended the celebration. 

After the program, Wilson said, “Presenting these 14 students with lab coats this morning was a very proud moment for everyone involved. As we stood and watched the group standing together with big smiles on their faces, the students, parents, teachers, and administration all felt the magnitude and impact that the STEM academy is adding to our already outstanding educational program. We are very excited for what's to come."

In an interview Pisano said, “We are so excited for this new program.”  Over the summer Pisano spent two weeks at Stevenson University receiving training for the freshman course called Principles of Biomedical Science. This course is the first of four Biomedical courses that the students will take throughout their high school career. The program follows Project Lead the Way curriculum. These courses are very similar to College Board's AP courses in that the students will have to sit for a national exam at the end of each course.

Many universities are also beginning to recognize high Project Lead the Way scores in the form of college credit according to Pisano. More importantly, these courses allow students to really explore the biomedical field through hands on labs. “In the first year alone, these students have the opportunity to complete labs dealing with forensic investigation, nutritional components of foods, testing for genetic disorders, antibiotic effectiveness, EKG and Blood pressure analysis and much more,” said Pisano.

Sophie Venus’s mother Deb said, “Abraham Lincoln said, ‘The best way to predict your future is to create it.’ Congratulations on your induction Sophie.  We are proud of you and love you.”

STEM Academy student Sophie said, “It is a very good program. It is a lot of fun.”  This sentiment was echoed by the other girls at the table enjoying their bagels and fruit.  “Ditto,” they said.

Jessica added, “I’ve really enjoyed the program and am happy to have the opportunity.”

Marie Theilacker, William Theilacker’s mother said, “Wills loves the program.”

Simon Levien’s mother Anna Levien said, "I am very thrilled to see all these 14 kids pioneer this awesome program at the high school.  It is such an honor for our children to realize their potential, celebrated and supported.  As a parent, I can only be so grateful to our schools here in Sparta for supporting and encouraging our kids to do well. I am in awe of what they already accomplished at this early time of their academic journey."

Parent Bill Stoddard said, “My wife and I are proud of our son.  We are glad he has such a terrific opportunity though this program.  We appreciate that the science department and school has put together this program.”

Piasno explained Sparta is the only school in Sussex County that offers a nationally recognized Biomedical Stem Academy and only one of three schools in New Jersey that offer this program within 30 miles.  The two closest programs are offered in Newark Technology High School and North Plainfield High School. In total, there are only 10 other schools in New Jersey that offer Project Lead the Way Biomedical.

Sparta students are able to apply for the program in eighth grade.  Students outside of Sparta are able to apply to join this program or the general education program as a tuition student, much like a private school applicant. 

A grant from 7/11 helped defray the costs of the ceremony.  Principal Ferraro said the white coats were part of the supply budget for the program.  

Ferraro said in an interview, “We are very proud of our students who took the chance on being our inaugural STEM program students.   We look forward to watching them grow through the program and beyond.   We hope the community joins us in celebrating this exciting new chapter in the Sparta School District's history.  We will continue to partner with our entire school community as we expand the STEM Academy.”

For the 2016-2017 school year Engineering and Design will be added to the STEM Academy.  Computer Programing will be added in 2017 as well.  Each class of students follow their program through all four years of school.

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