FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (June 14, 2012) -- Meade High School's first class of 49 graduating seniors in the Homeland Security Signature Program received diplomas Monday.

"I'm happy that we were able to influence the students in a positive manner," said Tina Edler, the program's lead instructor. "One hundred percent of the graduates are either going on to college or are entering the active-duty military."

More than 70 enrolled in the program in September 2008. Edler said that although the program had a retention rate of 98 percent, several students moved to different schools over the past four years.

The HSS program prepares students for careers in security, technology and engineering by offering an innovative, theme-specific curriculum and co-curricular activities that are relevant to a 21st-century workforce.

Meade High was the first of 12 high schools in Anne Arundel County to offer its own signature program. The theme of homeland security was selected because of the school's location on Fort Meade, the Base Realignment and Closure process, and the large number of businesses and defense companies in the area that specialize in homeland security.

Ira Snell III, president of Snell Enterprises, a cyber security company located in Columbia, is chair of the HSS program's Integrated Community Stakeholder's Team. The team is composed of industry leaders, government agency representatives, community leaders and parents who have partnered with the Anne Arundel County Public Schools to assist with the HSS curriculum and co-curricular activities.

"To finally see the first class walk across the stage is exciting," Snell said. "You feel like you played a part in their development. I think they're prepared, energetic, committed and ambitious."

The HSS curriculum consists of two core courses that are offered to students in the freshman and sophomore years. Edler said that for the remaining two years, students are encouraged to pursue courses that lead to careers in criminal justice and public service, engineering or geospacial information systems.

The core courses focus on the latest developments in areas such as terrorism, cyber security and food safety, and also expose students to various careers in the field.

Through ICST and other program partners, several notable guest speakers have participated in the program including Bob Droggin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning freelance reporter specializing in homeland security issues, and a chief calligrapher with the Central Intelligence Agency who gave each student a polygraph in the classroom.

In addition, students attended a youth conference hosted by Gov. Martin O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and have met with Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin and Rep. Elijah Cummings. They also visited the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and Princeton University in New Jersey.

Edler said the inaugural class had a good experience.

"They enjoyed the course and they had so much exposure to different experiences that they wouldn't have had otherwise," she said.

Part of ICST's new strategic plan is to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

To fulfill this goal, Snell said the ICST is working on developing project-based learning projects for the Meade cluster schools to prepare elementary and middle school students for HSS at the high school level.