~ $361,000 Tobacco Commission grant will help prepare students for STEM careers ~
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined the statewide educational nonprofit CodeVA and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission today to announce a $361,625 grant to train teachers in computer science and coding to serve in rural southside and southwest Virginia public schools. Today’s announcement, one of the largest K-12 computer science education program funding investments in the nation, was made during a “National Night of Code” event at Clarksville Elementary School in Mecklenburg County that included elementary, middle, and high school students, their families and local educators.
In 2016, Virginia became the first state in the nation to pass sweeping computer science education reforms which require every Virginia child to receive access to essential computer science literacy, including coding, from kindergarten through graduation. Since 2014, CodeVA has trained nearly 1,800 Virginia teachers yet fewer than three-dozen of those trained teachers are located in the Tobacco Commission’s service region in southside and southwest Virginia. CodeVA, in partnership with the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville and local community colleges, will use the Tobacco Commission grant to hire a resource coordinator to provide up to 100 hours of computer science training to teachers over a two-year period.
“Students all across our Commonwealth should have the tools they need to join a high-skilled workforce in a global, digital economy,” Sen. Warner said. “A shortage of workers in STEM fields threatens our nation’s productivity and competitive standing as an innovation leader around the world. This Tobacco Commission investment will help give teachers in rural Virginia the skills to train the next generation of engineers, scientists and cyber-specialists. It also will strengthen the talent pipeline and allow more young people to find good jobs and remain in a region where many of them were born and raised.”
“CodeVA appreciates Senator Warner’s longstanding support of K-12 computer science education in Virginia, a state with the highest per-capita concentration of computer science jobs in the nation,” said CodeVA Executive Director Chris Dovi. “Partnerships with the Tobacco Commission and Family Code Night both help to further CodeVA’s strategic mission of ensuring access to computer science literacy for every Virginia child. Senator Warner has long championed our state as the Digital Dominion, and it is wonderful to have his voice spreading the word that Virginia is for Computer Science Lovers.”
“I am pleased that the Tobacco Commission has made this important investment in the future of our region,” said Tobacco Commission Vice-Chairman Senator Frank Ruff. “The computer science skills our educators will learn through this program will help them prepare students across Southern and Southwest Virginia to compete for high quality jobs and ensure that our region continues to attract companies that require a workforce with these skills.”
Today’s event also included the launch of Virginia’s #CSforAll targeted public engagement campaign and announcement of CodeVA’s partnership with Family Code Night, a California-based nonprofit spotlighted last year during the White House’s #CSforAll launch. Family Code Night is a program similar to long-familiar elementary reading and math night programs, and uses Code.org online materials to engage parents in their kids’ computer science learning.
The Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission was created by the 1999 General Assembly to promote economic growth and development in tobacco-dependent communities, using proceeds of the national tobacco settlement. To date, the Commission has awarded more than 2,000 grants totaling more than $1.1 billion across the tobacco region of the Commonwealth, and has provided $309 million in indemnification payments to tobacco growers and quota holders.
As Governor, Sen. Warner pushed for increased state funding so that school districts could recruit, retain, and develop STEM instructors, and helped establish standards and accountability measures so that kids in Virginia can better compete in the U.S. and globally. In the Senate, Sen. Warner was successful in including in the America COMPETES Act a provision to allow high school students to get real-life exposure in lab settings so they can more easily pursue careers in STEM fields.