Spinach, STEM and the Road Ahead

By David Bertola

Two events in Western New York this past month with a focus on education exemplified National Grid’s commitment to STEM and other initiatives that grow the workforce of tomorrow.

On May 10 in Portville, the company sponsored the annual Dream It Do It STEM Job Fair. The event, attended by 1,200 students in grades 8 through 12 from 17 school districts, featured fun, interactive displays, demonstrations and exhibits by area manufacturers.

Among the messages reinforced that day was that companies like National Grid are thinking about the next generation of workers, which will require those who are proficient in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Meanwhile, on May 17 in Bergen, the academy hosted its annual Mentor Brunch and Job Expo, where students attended a career fair and sharpened their skills in mock job interviews. At the brunch, National Grid was honored as the academy’s Business Partner of the Year.

National Grid had donated $50,000 to Western New York Tech Academy for the design and construction of a solar-powered greenhouse that will be used to teach part of an academy curriculum.

At a May 17 Mentor Brunch and Job Expo, National Grid regional director accepts the award as WNY Tech Academy’s Business Partner of the Year.

The greenhouse will be built on the campus of Byron-Bergen Central School District Senior High School at a cost of around $225,000. Students plan on growing spinach then selling and delivering it to area schools for use in their cafeterias. Faculty and staff are planning greenhouse-based lessons around its three learning pathways – accounting, food processing technology and supply chain management – all with an eye toward building a pipeline of workers for Genesee County companies and industries.

Greenhouse groundbreaking is scheduled for the fall. The project should be completed before the start of the 2020-2021 school year, just in time for students in grades 10 to 12 to operate it.

WNY Tech Academy students Evan Harter and Jacob Ashley meet with a Navy recruiter on May 17 a the annual job expo.

“This partnership aligns with our long history and commitment to support educational initiatives around STEM and building tomorrow’s workforce that will help the students who, along with our customers in the communities we serve, will benefit from this unique experience,” said National Grid corporate citizenship manager Mauri Myers-Solages.

WNY Tech Academy principal Thomas Schulte added that Western New York Tech Academy is grateful for its partnership with National Grid.

“There is no question that without National Grid’s partnership and investment since our opening, the Western New York Tech Academy would not be what it is today,” he said.  “From student mentorship to investments that have allowed us to fully outfit our science labs and now support the construction of what I believe to be the linchpin of our program – we couldn’t be prouder and more grateful for National Grid’s commitment to our students and to our region as a whole.”