Barack Obama talks about ‘shaking trees’ in visit to UCM

tporter@lsjournal.comJuly 25, 2013 

  • More information 17 Number of students that enrolled in the first cohort of the Missouri Innovation Campus housed at Summit Technology Academy in Lee’s Summit. The MIC program drew the praise of President Barack Obama July 24.

The historic visit July 24 by President Barack Obama to the University of Central Missouri to tout the university’s partnership with metro area businesses, Metropolitan Community College and the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District was met with unbridled enthusiasm by most of the nearly dozen-and-a-half students enrolled in the program at Summit Technology Academy in Lee’s Summit.

After hours of waiting for the President’s arrival, Missouri Innovation Campus enrollees talked about the landmark event, the first ever visit from a sitting president to the campus in Warrensburg.

“I think it’s great that Obama is taking the time to come out and support us and the UCM campus and the MIC program,” said Max Ostrander, a senior-to-be at Lee’s Summit West High School and a participant in MIC. “It means a lot for I think all of us for him showing his support and acknowledging us.”

In his nearly 30-minute speech on the state of the economy, Obama did in fact acknowledge the MIC program, a collaborative effort between UCM, MCC, the R-7 school district and their business partners – Cerner Corporation and Saint Luke’s Health Systems among them.

“Here at Central Missouri, you are a laboratory for this kind of innovation,” the President said to a supportive crowd. “Everybody is now working together to equip students with better skills, allow them to graduate faster with less debt and with the certainty of being able to get a job at the other end. That’s a recipe for success over the long term.

“We’ve got students at Summit Technology Academy beginning to accrue credits towards an associate’s degree while they are still in high school, which means they can come here (to UCM) and earn a bachelor’s degree in two years and graduate debt free. And because the community college (MCC) and industries are involved, students are making a quicker decision about the industries that are going to create jobs…that is exactly the kind of innovation we need when it comes to college costs. I want the entire country to notice it.”

The national spotlight that shined on the MIC program was not lost on administrators from the R-7 school district or MCC.

“It’s a great day for the school district,” said David McGehee, superintendent for the R-7 district. “The Summit Technology kids are doing amazing things in this program and I couldn’t be prouder. It’s a great day for the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District.”

“We’re really excited to hear the President comment on the Missouri Innovation Campus and Summit Technology Academy,” added Don Andrews, the district’s assistant superintendent for secondary instruction. “We think it’s doing great things for kids and it could really be a model for other universities and school districts. We really don’t know of any program like it in the country and I think that is partly why it drew the attention of the White House.”

MCC Chancellor Mark James said: “Anytime that you get the President of the United States talking about something that you are working on is a pretty big deal in our view. We’re ecstatic to learn what we are doing with the Missouri Innovation Campus got on the President’s radar and impressed him enough that he came here to talk about it.”

New MCC-Longview President Kirk Nooks added: “This partnership with UCM is one of the shining examples of collaboration within a state. Just the fact that the President has acknowledged that, it’s incumbent on us now to take this further.”

Before Obama departed he again praised the collaborative effort of the MIC program.

“I want other colleges to take a look at what’s being done here,” he said. “I’ve asked my team to shake the trees all across the country for some of the best ideas out there for keeping college costs down so that middle class students, working class students, poor kids who have the drive and wherewithal and want to get a good college education, they can get it without basically mortgaging their entire future. We can make this happen.”

Of the President’s visit, outgoing Lee’s Summit North High School senior and MIC participant Kevin Schulmeister summed it up by saying: “It (was) very cool.”

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