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San Antonio Joins National Group To Build Cross-Sector STEM Learning

Students run past CAST Tech High School, one of San Antonio ISD's new specialized schools in May 2018.
Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
Students run past CAST Tech High School, one of San Antonio ISD's new specialized schools.

San Antonio is joining more than 60 other cities collaborating to better prepare students for careers in science and technology.

The city has been selected to be a part of a national organization called STEM Ecosystems.

For the next two years, a STEM Ecosystems field manager will help San Antonio schools, museums and businesses work together for maximum impact.

Ravae Shaeffer, of the Region 20 Education Service Center, said the field manager will use their expertise to help the region connect in-classroom and out-of-classroom learning opportunities.

She said the goal is for all students — not just gifted students or students in specialized schools — to have hands-on practice developing problem-solving skills.

“We want them to experience math, science, social studies in the real world. ‘Why do I need to learn this?’ That is the question that kids ask every single day,” Shaeffer said.

Rudy Reyna, of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said San Antonio’s ecosystem will include art, and leverage the experience and research of the other cities participating in STEM Ecosystems.

“We’re not creating a new program; we’re going to really elevate everything that already exists,” Reyna said. “But we will design an ecosystem for San Antonio that’s reflective of our culture; that reflects our strengths — what are the things that make us unique — and they’re going to help us obtain that because they’ll help us understand best practices.”

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO Ramiro Cavazos said there’s no funding associated with joining STEM Ecosystems, but it could help San Antonio compete for federal grants, and the designation also helps attract businesses.

“It’s just another strong initiative that gives us the bragging rights we need,” Cavazos said. “As an economic developer, this is an important building block for us. The funding is going to create several years, but most of what it will create for us … are the companies that will grow organically or that will move here.”

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg agreed that the designation will be a selling point.

“Our business leaders, our private sector and even our educational community has known for quite some time that STEM careers, (information technology), cyber technology, biosciences have been burgeoning industries where San Antonio is poised to lead,” Nirenberg said. “We’re only the second STEM Ecosystem in Texas … so this immediately puts an emphasis to the point that business leaders and civic leaders have been trying to make for some time.”

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille