Since 1994, the education of our future scientific workforce has been a major component of BRF’s mission to diversify and grow our region’s economy by recognizing that a trained and knowledgeable workforce is essential to improving the quality of life in our community. Since then, BRF has been instrumental in raising over $3 million from public and private sources to fund educational programs in Caddo, Bossier and DeSoto parish schools and colleges that challenge students to learn more, participate more and experience more than basic curriculum requires.
BRF’s education programs have provided opportunities for collaboration and partnerships with many organizations. In the higher ed arena, BRF led the formation of the Consortium for Education, Research and Technology in 1996 and played a major role in bringing all the higher education institutions in North Louisiana together to collaborate on academic programs and grants, curricula and industry partnerships.
From 2002-2005, BRF led the Math, Science, and Technology Community Consortium with Centenary College, the Committee of One Hundred, LSU Shreveport and other community groups to design a STEM-based program.
BRF’s latest partnership involves participation in the North Louisiana STEAM Alliance and the Region 7 LaSTEM Center, a community of educators, educational institutions, non-profits, parents and civic advocates who aim to improve STEM education for local students through achieving math and science proficiency, increasing awareness of and access to STEM opportunities in the community and connecting students to the 21st-century workforce.
Yearlong research experience for high school students at LSUHS
In 1997, BRF launched its first STEM program, which is now known as the Bobbie Cates Hicks Science and Medicine Academic Research Training Program (SMART). The program provides a yearlong research experience with investigators at LSU Health Shreveport (LSUHS) for eight to 12 academically advanced high school seniors who have a career interest in medicine, biomedical research or biomedical engineering. Since inception, 249 students have participated in the SMART program, with 100% attending a college or university post-graduation and over 80% continuing their education as science majors. Participating students are selected through a highly competitive process from three parishes and have high success in venues such as the Junior Humanities and Science Symposium and the national and international Intel Science Fair and Talent Search. SMART is a partnership among BRF, LSUHS, and the Caddo, Bossier and DeSoto Parish school boards.
BIOTECHNOLOGY MAGNET ACADEMY
Rigorous science, math, and technology curriculum
In 2009, BRF partnered with Southwood High School, Caddo Parish Public Schools, LSU Health Shreveport, LSU Shreveport and participating biotech companies to create the Biotechnology Magnet Academy (BTA) at Southwood High School. The four-year Academy has now grown from 25 students to an average of 200 students, of which many are women, minorities, from low-income families and/or are first-generation college bound. Students enter the program as freshmen and complete a rigorous four-year curriculum that far exceeds Louisiana requirements for basic high school curriculum with a focus on math, science and technology courses. Course options include AP Biology, Chemistry II, AP Environmental Science, Robotics II, Clinical Lab, courses at the Career Center and more.
BIOSTART INTERNSHIP PROGRAM
Semester-long research experience for high school students at LSUHS
Launched in fall 2009, the BioStart Internship Program gives six to 10 seniors from the Biotechnology Magnet Academy at Southwood High School the opportunity to conduct a research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor at LSU Health Shreveport (LSUHS). For one semester, each student spends three hours a day in a lab learning research methods and laboratory techniques. Participants present the results of their research at poster sessions, regional conferences, science competitions and public outreach venues throughout the year. In 2010, the BioStart Internship Program received a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Institutes of Health for $1.3 million over five years – the first SEPA awarded to a project in Louisiana. Today, the program has served 140 students, including approximately 74% females, 58% minorities, and 45% first-generation college bound. BRF launched the BTA and BioStart Programs in conjunction with the Caddo Parish School Board, LSUHS, LSU Shreveport, participating biotech companies and Southwood High School.
Helping students navigate higher education
Since the majority of students who enroll in the Biotechnology Magnet Academy (BTA) are first-generation college bound, BRF created the College Navigator program in 2011 to help students tackle the complicated process of qualifying for, applying to and finding the means to attend college. The College Navigator works with students beginning in their freshman year to create a roadmap of college and career goals, encouraging them to achieve post-secondary education and eventually to obtain fulfilling careers. The College Navigator assists with course selections, submitting college applications and completing scholarship and financial aid applications. The program also provides ACT test preparation classes and assistance with ACT testing expenses and offers one-on-one counseling for students and parents when needed. The Navigator prepares students on-site at Southwood High School for college by focusing on academics, career goal setting, grades and scores, college and program selection and attainment of financial aid and scholarships. The College Navigator has been instrumental in helping students understand their post-graduation options, encouraging them to apply to at least one college or university and one scholarship source. BTA’s college preparation support has resulted in 92% of the 2020-2021 class choosing to pursue higher education, compared to 54% in Louisiana (Louisiana Department of Education). In addition, BTA’s college preparation supports have resulted in 88% of the 2022-2023 class choosing to pursue higher education with 59% being first-generation college bound.
Robotics at Southwood High School
Southwood High School’s program, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), is a global robotics challenge program started in 1998 by entrepreneur Dean Kamen. Each year, students and mentors solve engineering design challenges by designing and constructing robots to perform designated tasks. The FIRST team competes in local, regional and national competitions and showcases their robots at events throughout the year.
Funding for BRF’s EdVentures programs comes from the generosity of donors, including the late Bobbie Cates Hicks, the Bruce J. Heim Foundation, the Poindexter Foundation Inc., the CenterPoint Energy Foundation, the Community Foundation of North Louisiana’s Give for Good Donors, the Community Foundation of North Louisiana’s William C. Woolf Fund and the Magale Foundation.
A global, multimodal hub, Northwest Louisiana is in prime position to move goods across the country and around the world. This video is the first in a series showcasing the Shreveport-Bossier area's assets, infrastructure and quality of life.
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