School outreach
Karen Ryder, U.S. Army educational outreach coordinator, gives students at San Antonio's East Central High School a sample of food science technology -- a power bar.

SAN ANTONIO - U.S. Army educational outreach coordinators delivered science and technology presentations to nine San Antonio high schools this week with the hope of inspiring students to look to the Army for career options and opportunities.

This outreach effort, led by members of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, represents a significant evolution of All-American Bowl week activities.

Outreach Coordinator Erica Bertoli said the Army's education effort was greatly appreciated at Cooper Academy.

"Cooper Academy is a really great program here in San Antonio. It's a 'back to school' program for students ranging in age from 17 to 25," Bertoli explained. "I think it's about four years old."

According to the San Antonio School District website, the Cooper Dropout Recovery Academy is a special grant-funded program that works to help former dropouts graduate with a high school diploma. The Cooper program is funded through the Texas Education Agency and provides a non-traditional educational environment focused on recovering credits and working through the hardships that can contribute to students choosing to not continue their education.

"These students had actually left the school system, and in a lot of places their only option would be to pursue a GED (general education diploma), which would close a lot of doors for them," Bertoli said.

Cooper Academy invites students back and works with them to create a flexible, accommodating schedule that focuses them on graduation.

"Students work four hours a day, and it's whatever four hours they select," Bertoli explained. "They go to classes and are given online opportunities as well, so that they come out with a high school diploma rather than a GED, giving them back all those opportunities."

Bertoli said the Army robotics engineers and their Soldier escort were besieged with questions after their presentation at Cooper Academy.

"Many of the students are really excited to talk to our Soldiers (during their visit to the Army Technology Zone this week) and are looking forward to the opportunity to be able to enlist," she said.

Outreach Coordinator Karen Ryder accompanied food science engineers to a presentation at East Central High School.

"We're reaching more students than we ever have before," Ryder said.

"Before we would do tours if they requested one of our facilities, but now we're physically going to the schools, reaching more students and encouraging them to go into the math and science arena at an early age," Ryder added.

"Our goals are twofold," Bertoli said. "One, to expose students to some Army technology -- our robotics, our food science, our chemistry -- to get them excited about the things that support the Warfighter.

"On the flip side of that, we meet with school administrators, career counselors and principals to let them know what Army has to offer. No matter who these students are and no matter what they want to pursue in their futures, there's opportunity for them with the Army."

How do educational outreach coordinators measure success'

"A couple of ways," Bertoli explained.

"At one of the schools this week a number of students said they weren't planning to come to the Alamodome. We brought out our robotics and some NCOs to talk to them, and by the end they were all clambering up to their principal who had a stash of tickets for the All-American Bowl," said Bertoli.

"You can also see it in the questions that they ask. You can see it when they're actively pursuing us after the sessions, asking, 'How do I get information about this scholarship'' or 'How do I get information to come work in one of the labs'' You can see it there that you're being successful," Bertoli added.

The Army Technology Zone, part of the Army Strong Zone at Sunset Station adjacent the Alamodome, opens early Thursday morning and will remain open through the weekend.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16