‘A novel idea’ garners Missouri Innovation Campus Difference Maker of the Year

tporter@lsjournal.comDecember 27, 2013 

Lee’s Summit is a community full of difference makers so choosing an individual, organization or entity for the Journal’s 2013 Difference Maker of the Year was an arduous task.

Hundreds if not thousands of citizens of Lee’s Summit on a daily basis go out of their way to make the city a better place.

But, in the end – at least for the year ending 2013 – when the sitting President of the United States cites your program as the model for the future of education in the country the tie is broken.

When U.S. President Barack Obama and Air Force One descended on Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster July 24 for a short drive to the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg to tout the Missouri Innovation Campus that sits on the grounds of Summit Technology Academy in Lee’s Summit, the country took notice – and pretty much sealed the deal; the Missouri Innovation Campus at Summit Tech is this publication’s Difference Maker of the Year.

The MIC is a collaborative effort between metro area businesses, UCM, Metropolitan Community College and the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District to connect the businesses with a trained workforce with specific skills.

“The Innovation Campus is one of the best collaboration models I have seen in a long time in education,” said Elaine Metcalf, director of Summit Tech. “It’s been amazing for students. Being able to obtain a college degree with less debt is a novel idea and one that we hope others around the nation begin to look at and see what we are doing so that it is not an isolated incident but all across the country.”

“It has also been gratifying to see that this relatively new program is already gaining national attention and is being viewed as a model for other programs across the country,” added R-7 Superintendent David McGehee.

With two cohorts – both cohorts provide students with the opportunity to earn a high-tech bachelor’s degree just two years after graduating from high school – underway in information technology and engineering technology/design and drafting, the campus is the first of its kind, thus the President’s visit.

Currently, 17 students are enrolled in the first (IT) cohort, and close to another dozen or so are enrolled in the engineering cohort. A nursing cohort will be added to the mix in the near future.

The overall program itself was introduced in the fall of 2012.

“It’s a model that doesn’t exist,” said Stan Elliott, the MIC’s project coordinator. “It’s been an exciting venture, but it only works because of the collaboration between UCM, MCC and the R-7 district. Also, Summit Tech; this program does not exist without Summit Technology Academy.”

The campus serves students from the district’s three high schools as well as 19 other metro-area high schools on the Missouri side.

Throughout the students’ involvement in the four-year process, they participate in high-impact internships and on-the-job education thanks to partnering businesses which include Cerner, DST, Saint Luke’s Health Systems, Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, Black & Veatch, Burns & McDonnell, Honeywell, KCP&L, the city of Lee’s Summit and Grundfos, all of whom have entered into participation agreements with the MIC.

The businesses help underwrite the cost of training provided by the Innovation Campus through paid internships for MIC students. The Innovation Campus has also received state grants totaling $1.5 million to assist with program costs.

McGehee said the district has been “enormously pleased with the results we are seeing at the Missouri Innovation Campus as well as our partnership with UCM and MCC.”

“Our feedback from students, staff members and business partners has been very positive,” McGehee said. “Students are making valuable connections with businesses, and our business partners have appreciated the opportunity to work with and train students through on-the-job internships.

“And, of course, parents are thrilled that their children will graduate from college just two years after leaving high school with a high-demand bachelor’s degree and virtually no college debt or expense.”

Just recently the R-7 school district and UCM selected Townsend Capital as the developer it will work with for a potential campus. Townsend Capital owns property along the north of Chipman Rd., east of the current Summit Tech at 777 N.W. Blue Parkway.

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