Investing in Education here in the First Frontier
It’s the unofficial end-of-summer…no not Labor Day, we are talking about what some parents may describe as the most wonderful time-of-the-year…back to school time!!! As we prepare for another year of learning and friendships, it’s a good time to take stock in the recent investments in education here in the First Frontier Blair County.
Investment in education isn’t just about the dollars spent. It’s also about a community’s investment in programming, events, mentoring and involvement in lifelong learning that begins years before kindergarten. The importance of education is multi-faceted, not only here in Blair County but throughout the world. An education system is a reflection on our community’s ability to educate and prepare our next generation leaders and investors with the skills they need to meet the challenges of ever-changing market conditions. A competitive pre-K through post-secondary education system is critical in attracting people to fill current and future positions here in the First Frontier.
The largest investment is reflected in ongoing construction of the new Altoona Area School District (AASD) High School which broke ground in May of 2018 and is expected to open in the Fall of 2020. This nearly $90 million investment will replace the 90-year-old B building and contain spaces specific to science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) as well as new performing arts venues. The progress made in just 15 months is a game changer not just for the students but the surrounding neighborhood.
Investment has been made throughout all of Blair County’s public and private schools, especially in STEAM and Entrepreneurial Development. Notable STEAM programming is happening in the Claysburg-Kimmel School District (CKSD) and the Blair County Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!). The CKSD in conjunction with the Claysburg Education Foundation has invested in excess of $400,000 towards STEAM programs through new technology equipment, a summer STEAM program and establishing a Creator Club at Downtown Altoona’s Catalyst (Maker) Space. The YEA! Program is a 25-week program that teaches students from 11-18 years old how to start and run their own business. Over the past 3 years over 50 students have worked together with local business leaders and instructors on creating businesses in Blair County.
Our post-secondary partners have been investing in both infrastructure and programs. Penn State Altoona, in partnership with ABCD Corporation, has been renovating and repurposing buildings in Downtown Altoona over the past 20+ years. This includes a one-of-a-kind in the nation Rail Transportation Engineering degree program. The Pennsylvania Highlands Community College Blair Center opened in 2013 and just recently completed an expansion quadrupling its size and now enrolls nearly 500 students.
If the kitchen is the heart of a home, our schools are the heart of a community. And from a scan of recent investments and programming, our heart is strong and getting stronger.