COLUMBUS — Central Community College received a $648,844 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The five-year award will fund “Growing Pathways to STEM: Project GPS” at Central's Columbus campus. The project is designed to help students succeed in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) so they’ll be prepared to transfer into a baccalaureate degree program or enter the workforce.

Project GPS is focused on enhancing student engagement, enrollment and persistence in STEM, more specifically science and engineering, said biology instructor Dr. Lauren Gillespie, who will manage the project along with biological sciences instructor Steve Heinisch.

“The project’s immersive, tailored activities will expand a student’s ability to think critically and evaluate evidence,” she said.

One way the project will accomplish this is by using a cohort model, which means students will take the same courses together, allowing them to support each other as they learn in the classroom and explore service, research and workplace activities.

“Extensive partner collaboration and integration of industry needs with STEM education is a distinctive program feature,” Heinisch said. “Project GPS will contribute to a growing generation of scientifically literate citizens, address area employment needs and provide opportunities to students who are underserved while closing the education and training gap in the area.”

Project GPS will also work to build the links between secondary and postsecondary STEM programs.

“The growth of students in the rural Midwest who receive and value quality higher education is imperative at a time when scientific and environmental literacy are critical to global and public health,” Gillespie said.

A final — and integral — key to the program are the scholarships available through the grant. Sixty percent of the money is dedicated to scholarships and will fully fund 25 students over the grant’s lifetime.

To qualify for the Project GPS scholarship, individuals must meet four requirements: financial need as determined by FAFSA, academic ability/potential, citizenship and full-time enrollment in a qualified program at CCC-Columbus. Students will be able to apply for the scholarships on Oct. 1 as part of the college’s new year-round scholarship process. Recipients will be part of the first cohort group that will start in the 2018 fall semester.

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