LEXINGTON — With eyes toward the future, Willard Elementary’s Student Technology Leadership Program began work in late August on their 2016-2017 project entitled, “Going Techie at West Perry! Live Long and Tech Out!” Students worked all year on this project; its purpose was to bring computer programming classes to West Perry Elementary when it opens in the fall of 2017 and to spread awareness throughout eastern Kentucky concerning the need for computer programming classes as part each school’s curriculum. Computer programming skills will be vital to job success in the future. The young students at Willard recognized this need and decided to do their part to make computer programming possible across the area.
Throughout the year, Willard’s STLP members worked toward their goal gaining valuable communication, teamwork, and computing skills along the way. The students learned basic computer programming using App Inventor and Python. They shared apps which they had created with younger students at Willard and even traveled to Leslie County in order to teach students at Mountain View Elementary how to design their own apps.
Willard’s STLP contacted all school districts in the Upper Kentucky River region and were shocked to learn that no school system taught computer programming from elementary through high school. With this in mind, the students began a letter writing campaign to Governor Matt Bevin and Congressman Hal Rogers asking for help with funding for such classes. STLP members collected signatures in an accompanying petition drive. The letters and petitions for the Governor were hand delivered to Frankfort by STLP member Lucas Gibson early this spring.
This month, Willard’s STLP spoke before the Hazard Chamber of Commerce, Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton, Senator Brandon Smith, and local business and educational leaders at the Challenger Learning Center. There, they asked once again for help in bringing computer programming classes to students all across eastern Kentucky.
Through an ongoing partnership with a retired Silicon Valley HP computer programmer, the students have learned to expand their horizons. They understand how start up companies like Bit Source, a regional web design firm which employees and retrains former coal miners, can bring new hope for employment to our region. Willard’s STLP worked to convince those present at the Challenger Center of the vital link between early educational opportunities in computer programming and future job success.
Having advanced from the regional competition in Pikeville held earlier in the school year, on March 12, Willard’s STLP members traveled to Rupp Arena to face their toughest challenge. Kentucky’s State STLP brings over 9,000 students to Rupp each spring to test their skills in a wide array of cutting edge technological events. The crown jewel is the project category. This year over 550 projects were presented at Rupp.
At the end of the night, Willard Elementary’s STLP members stood on the stage as the middle school state champs. In June, they will travel on to San Antonio, Texas to share their year’s experiences with educators from across the nation during the International Society for Technology in Education Conference. STLP member Madison Smith remarked, “It still doesn’t seem real! We are so excited!”
What is real is the dream. A dream which will become reality at West Perry when it opens in the fall. Recently, Mrs. Regina Meehan, Perry County School’s Transitional Leader for West Perry Elementary, informed Willard’s STLP members that robotics and computer programming will be an important part of the curriculum at West Perry at all grade levels. West Perry’s eyes will be toward the future as its teachers strive to provide students with an education second to none.
Anyone wanting to donate to the team for their trip in June may do so by contacting Anita Hamilton or Jody Campbell at Willard Elementary. The school can be contacted at 606-436-6807.
Anita Hamilton, Willard STLP Coach, contributed this article to the Hazard Herald.