Florida Recruits Top STEM Students

scholarsCommissioner Pam Stewart

Even before I took the stage to welcome attendees to the 2014 Sunshine State Scholars Conference, I realized that this year’s scholars were quite possibly the most talented group we have ever invited.

The conference, a joint project between the department and the Florida Education Foundation, invites each district’s top 11th grade STEM (Science, Technology,  Engineering, Mathematics) student to be recognized and encouraged to begin their postsecondary career in Florida.

I think it is important to know this year’s attendees were not only the state’s top STEM students, but many were also talented writers, musicians, athletes and leaders. For example, Michael from Okeechobee County recently finished his first solo flight and is completing requirements for a private pilot’s license.

Savannah from Charlotte County recently placed in the Florida Girls Weightlifting State Finals and Vivek from Broward County developed a mobile app to help middle school students prepare for the MathCounts competition.

Chyanne from Marion County started a project called “Stockings for Shands,” where she collects coloring books, crayons and other items for children receiving infusion treatments at Shands Hospital.

I wish I had time to highlight each scholar, but I am confident that you will begin seeing all of their names as they become our state’s next generation of leaders.

For more information on Florida’s Sunshine State Scholars program, visit the Florida Education Foundation website.

A special thanks to the conference sponsors who made the event a success, including AT&T, Helios Education Foundation, Universal Orlando Resorts, Atkins, Gulf Power Company, The Florida Lottery and The Mosaic Company.

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Florida Honors Outstanding Principals and Assistant Principals

Mickey Mouse wasn’t the only one having a magical time last week, just ask the 37 Florida principals and assistant principals who were honored as the best school leaders in the state.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was serving as a Marion County school principal, so you can imagine how exciting it was to recognize the hard work and dedication of these wonderful leaders. Each of the attendees was nominated by their district to attend the 2014 Commissioner’s Leadership Academy, acknowledging the critical role their leadership plays in student and school success.

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Florida’s 2014 Principal of the Year Finalists

I felt very fortunate to know and have worked with several of the district winners. In fact, one of the honorees, Principal John McCollum, was my mentor while I was an elementary school principal in Marion County.

Like John, most of the principals attending the summit came from schools where almost all of their students are on free- or reduced-price lunch plans. What inspires me about these principals is that they do not let a student’s circumstances get in the way of the school’s ability to provide a first-rate education.

When it was my turn to address the attendees, I thanked them for being on the front lines with students, teachers and parents every day. Although the work can be overwhelming, Florida teachers and principals are truly making a difference in the lives of children, ensuring they are prepared for the future…and hopefully having a little fun along the way.

Commissioner Pam Stewart

Florida Department of Education