A western Missouri-based educational program was the lure to bring President Barack Obama to speak in Warrensburg last week. The President said so, directly, in his address at University of Central Missouri.
He described the program as a job creator that speeds education for young people without leaving them saddled with student loan debt upon graduation.
The Missouri Innovation Campus began as a collaboration between Metropolitan Community College, a high school and some local businesses.
Beginning their junior year in high school, students take classes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics from Metropolitan Community College and the University of Central Missouri to earn college credit. When the students graduate high school, they will have earned a high school diploma and associate degree.
The graduates can then go on to receive a bachelors degree in two years from UCM. The program has grown to include the University at Warrensburg and an accelerated college degree for students taking part.Mark James is the MCC Chancellor. "When we got the word what we were doing with the Missouri Innovation Campus had attracted the present of the US, yes it was a wow moment."
James talked about the importance of getting businesses involved. Those firms include St. Luke’s Health Systems, KCP&L, several engineering companies and Cerner.
Laura Evans directs talent development for the company. She says the genesis of the Innovation Campus left out the college degree component until UCM President Charles Ambrose got involved.
"I think there are multiple pathways to get the well rounded education that we think of," she says. "And today's student doesn't have a lot of patience for subject matter that feels irrelevant, and one of the things that helps them make that connection is work in a work environment, where they see how the math, how the tech help them accomplish the purposes at work."
The Innovation Campus program takes its beginning high school students from all three Lee's Summit high schools and seven other districts.