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Grant maintains school science courses

Date: 1/2/2013

By Carley Dangona

WESTFIELD — On Dec. 20, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) announced that Westfield High School (WHS) was a recipient of a $44,333 grant to support its courses in the life sciences.

Michelle Santangelo, Grant Projects coordinator for Westfield Public Schools, explained the benefits of the grant. "If there was no money for materials to support these hands-on classes, it would limit what can be taught in the classroom. These funds enable the school to provide a variety of courses and to enrich the material of each."

She added, "The WHS science teachers do a fantastic job and this opportunity brings their teaching to the next level by providing a well-rounded science program. The goal of offering these classes is to appeal to kids that don't naturally gravitate towards science — it creates interest."

WHS courses that are supported by the grant include molecular biology, conceptual chemistry and physics. Some of the needed materials are a water pollution study kit, $650; an analytical balance, $4,359; an electric autoclave, $6,475 and a human skeleton, $665.

A total of $3.2 million in grants was awarded to 31 schools, for cost of training equipment and supplies needed for life science job training classes. The program was announced in 2010 by Murray at the 7th Annual Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Summit.

"Our administration continues to invest in STEM education, jobs, and workforce development to prepare the next generation of students and leaders in our economy," Murray, chair of the Governor's STEM Advisory Council, said. "By partnering with the MLSC, we are delivering resources for schools to invest in advanced equipment and supplies."

Susan Windham-Bannister, president and CEO of MLSC, said, "Training students to enter the life sciences workforce is a critical part of the center's mission. We want to make those opportunities available to all students across the state, which is why we are focusing resources in this round of grant awards on our vocational, technical and public high schools in our gateway cities. These investments will both strengthen and diversify our life sciences workforce in Massachusetts."

Westfield is a Gateway City, which is defined as a mid-size city that has traditionally served as a gateway to the middle class but struggles to progress from its industrial past.

"Thanks to the dedication of the Patrick-Murray Administration and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, our Vocational-Technical schools are leading the way in preparing our students to reignite the precision manufacturing industry in Massachusetts," State Sen. Gale Candaras said. "Precision manufacturers across the state have stressed the need for more machinists in the next five years, and this funding will ensure that our students can fill these positions, which offer fair pay and benefits."

Santangelo and WHS science teacher Donna McKay wrote the grant request. Santangelo expects the school will receive the grant money in the beginning of this year. "Generally, the money is received as soon as the paperwork is complete," she said.

The MLSC is an agency of the Commonwealth responsible for implementing the Massachusetts Life Sciences Act, a 10-year, $1 billion initiative that was signed into law in June 2008. Its mission is to create jobs in the life sciences and support vital scientific research that will improve the human condition. For more information, visit