BALTIMORE - A deputy director with the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s communications-electronics center was honored by the Maryland Department of Education at a board meeting here July 19 for his efforts to help the state obtain funding for Maryland Summer Centers for gifted and talented students.

CERDEC’s Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate’s Mike Lombardi was recognized in front of some of the biggest decision makers in the Maryland education system for his efforts in helping the state raise more than $300,000 for the summer centers.

Lombardi’s recognition, along with the recognition of a representative from the Army Alliance and the Department of Defense, was necessary because they were instrumental in enabling the state of Maryland to continue its gifted and talented Summer Center Programs, said Mary Cary, Maryland’s assistant superintendent of instruction.

“The Maryland Summer Centers program, in partnership with public and non-public agencies, provides Maryland’s diverse gifted and talented student population with advanced, rigorous, experiential learning opportunities that nurture these students’ talents and abilities within unique learning environments,” according to the Maryland State Department of Education website.

This summer there are 10 summer centers with residency and non-residency programs focusing on everything from the visual and performing arts, conservation research and historical research to computer science, engineering, space science and renewable energy.

In 2010, the Summer Centers program funding was zeroed and partnerships with outside organizations were needed in order to keep the program going, said Stephanie Zenker with the Maryland Gifted and Talented education program.

Lombardi was working at RDECOM headquarters’ G-5 on educational outreach programs when he was contacted by Zenker. Zenker made a heartfelt plea for help to find funding and support to continue the summer programs, according to Lombardi.

“It was a terrible shame these camps would be disbanded and smart middle and high school students wouldn’t have the opportunity to attend,” said Lombardi. “I thought of my 7-year-old and how I would want him to have these opportunities when he gets older.”

Through both tough, deliberate networking and serendipitous connections, Zenker told the Maryland Department of Education board of directors that she credits Lombardi with helping put her on a path last year that would eventually lead to $317,000 in donations, allowing the state to grow from six summer centers in 2010 to 10 in 2011. The education department honored Lombardi for his foresight and ability to
connect Zenker to other sources of support for the summer centers, according to Zenker.

CERDEC leadership has committed full support for education and STEM outreach because it behooves the organization to play a role in outreach to increase the potential hiring pool in the future, said Lombardi.

“We need bright children who want to grow up to be scientists and engineers. We’ve got to get them when they are 10, 11, 12-years-old, maybe even younger, and get them excited about STEM during the regular school year and during the summer,” said Lombardi.