Blake Freeman, director of learning at Hamilton County Schools, on Friday asked the EPB board of directors to continue its support for the EPB Institute of Technology and Networking at Tyner High School.
Started in 2019, EPB partnered with the school to create a program where employees of EPB mentor students and expose them to real world experiences related to the technology industry.
There were “Future Ready Institutes" set up for three industries at Tyner starting with ninth graders and adding a new grade each year since.
Now there are 174 students enrolled in these programs - close to one third of the total 600 students at Tyner. In May 2022, the first class that enrolled in 2019 graduated.
Before the program began, EPB made improvements to the physical space to make the classroom feel like a workplace environment. The change as students enter the renovated room is designed to trigger a change in mindset. The revamped environment has proven to be successful and now a second classroom has been renovated, Mr. Freeman said.
The goal of the program is to expose students to careers in technology using hands-on, project-based learning. EPB employees mentor the students and the students have been exposed to the environment at EPB allowing them to interact with different kinds of people and learn about jobs that they did not know about. They have been to actual meetings and presentations and in some cases have been given real work to do. This collaboration allows a participant of the program to gauge if they are interested in pursuing the field further.
In addition to EPB’s Institute of Technology, there are also Health Science and Teaching and Learning Institutes. There have been 106 enrolled in the EPB program. When these programs began, no females registered, but four years later 16 percent are females. In the EPB Institute, 69 percent of participants are African American and 24 percent are Hispanic. This opportunity is seen as one way to increase self-esteem, plus some of the students have received scholarships.
EPB’s initial investment in the program was $250,000 over four yeas plus the manpower from employees. The Hamilton County schools are requesting the same commitment to repeat the next four-year term. It cannot be done without support from EPB, said Mr. Freeman.