The CenterPoint Energy Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to BRF to purchase equipment for Southwood High School’s Biotechnology Magnet Academy’s (BTA) Clinical Lab course. The specialized equipment helps students gain valuable hands-on laboratory experience and better prepares them for internships, college and career opportunities in the scientific research and medical fields. This is the second year the CenterPoint Energy Foundation has supported the program.
In 2005, BRF helped found BTA along with Southwood, LSU Health Shreveport (LSUHS), Caddo Parish Public Schools, LSU Shreveport and participating biotech companies. The four-year program provides an intense STEM curriculum that exceeds Louisiana state high school requirements. The program also provides graduation supports and prepares students for college entry and placement exams. BTA’s college preparation supports resulted in 92% of the 2021-22 class choosing to pursue higher education compared to 54% in Louisiana (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Increasing education opportunities in North Louisiana is important for building a knowledge-based regional economy and is a part of BRF’s economic development mission. BRF is pleased to be a part of the growth of BTA from 25 students in 2006 to more than 200 students today. The program also serves many students who are typically underrepresented in STEM fields. This year’s group includes 59% female, 79% minority, and 59% first-generation college-bound students.
Since 1997, BRF has raised over $3 million from public and private sources to fund its innovative science and technology STEM education programs. This includes over $120,000 to equip and outfit Southwood’s microbiology and molecular and cellular biology labs that were essential to making BTA a special and unique high school program. In addition, in 2008 with LSUHS, BRF secured a $1.25 million, five-year NIH SEPA (Science Education Partnership Award) grant to expand BTA by offering BioStart internships at LSUHS. BioStart provides a unique, hands-on research laboratory internship experience for 6-10 BTA students annually, who work alongside researchers at LSUHS to complete a project that they present at local and regional events.
“BRF appreciates the CenterPoint Energy Foundation’s generosity and looks forward to seeing the positive impact their support will provide to local students,” said BRF President and CEO John F. George Jr., M.D. For more information about BTA and other education programs please visit: www.brfla.org/edventures.