Standard 1.1. The STEM school/program supports non-traditional student participation through outreach to groups often underrepresented in STEM program areas.

Fulton Science Academy grows by approximately ninety students per year. Slow growth is a priority for us as we want to insure that our school program is a good match for the students that we accept. Every student enrolled in our school from pre-K through high school actively participates in comprehensive STEM study areas on a daily basis and is expected to become proficient in all areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. No one is excluded and participation is not optional as student success in these areas is required to fulfill the mission and vision of the school.

As a private school, students must pay tuition to attend FSAPS. Therefore, we advertise throughout the North Atlanta Area and surrounding communities to draw awareness to our school in an effort to maintain a diverse population. A focus of our school is to instill within our students the ability to work well with others, regardless of gender, ethnicity, cultural, religious, or other differences. This requires that we actively seek to engage diverse populations, including those underrepresented in STEM fields, so that we maintain a diverse environment in which respect for others’ differences can grow among our students.

However, we are limited to the student populations that live within reasonable proximity to the physical location of our school.   Also, another limiting factor is the economic situation of families and their ability to pay tuition. Lastly, our rigorous academic enrollment requirements further narrows the students that we serve considerably. Collectively, these factors play a significant role in determining the overall composition of our student population and to some extent they impact our ability to reach many of the underrepresented groups in STEM program areas. However, we have tried to address the limiting factors to the extent that we are financially able to do so.

To address transportation, we assist our families and applicants with family carpool coordination as we serve students from all surrounding areas. Also, we have found a company, Get My Kidz Shuttles, that parents can contract with to provide transportation to and from school in the event that carpooling is not an option. In the future, we hope to have bus transportation from the North, South, East, and West. However, we know that this will increase tuition costs and we are hesitant to do that until our population growth and stakeholder interest in transportation services makes that economically feasible for all our families. Although, we would like for students further out to have the opportunity to attend our school, we do not want to preclude those that are presently enrolled from being able to continue their tenure with us due to an unnecessary tuition increase.

As far as tuition, there is little that we can do about charging tuition. However, we do participate in the State Tax Credit Scholarship Program for private schools. This allows families that might not be in an economic position to afford full tuition to still send their students to our school. We also are committed to keeping our tuition as low as possible, so that as many qualifying students as possible may be able to attend our program. In the future, once our campus is completed and our mortgage obligations have been fulfilled, we hope to dedicate a significant percentage of our overall budget to scholarships as our goal is and will forever be to provide this educational option to as many students as we are able to serve.

There is one underrepresented STEM group that is not impacted by physical proximity to FSAPS or economic situations and that is the female population. We specifically target girls in many of our advertising initiatives and support all girl STEM academic teams within our program. Ultimately, we strive to maintain a gender balanced student population of 50% girls and 50% boys. We are proud that the percentage of girls that are enrolled in FSAPS is consistently over 43% and has reached as high as 49%. Tracking gender demographics and having a balanced target keeps this goal uppermost in our minds when advertising and devising outreach programs.

Last year, our all female robotics team, CNTL+ALT+DELETE, advanced to the International World Open Robotics Competition in the U.K. and won third place there. This team inspired other girls at our school to join robotics and this year another robotics team, Syntax Error, that includes five girls and one boy was created. Recently, they competed at the state level and have now advanced to the National Robotics Tournament in San Diego, California, which will be held in May. 

Additionally, we provide expansive opportunities for STEM enrichment and exploration. We offer STEM academic teams, before and after-school clubs, focused enrichment activity times, and support STEM competitions, so that students may utilize their STEM knowledge and classroom lessons in an enjoyable and social way. Thereby encouraging exploration, curiosity, and eliminating the pressure of the classroom setting and grades when attempting something new. This is extremely important to both our overall academic program’s success and for our students to develop interests and hopefully a passion for a future STEM career. Students, also, develop 21st century skills through these opportunities to ensure that they are successful in whatever field that they choose. We have found that these beyond-the-classroom offerings create a love of learning and confidence that are difficult to instill in a strictly classroom setting.

To provide outreach and STEM opportunities to our community as a whole, including home school students that are often lacking in STEM activities, we provide for their inclusion in all FSAPS developed competitions. Some examples of these are MathGeniuses, ScienceGeniuses, and Technology Fair. This provides a platform for homeschool students to shine in the areas of math, science, and technological innovation. We, also, serve as a site for invitational Science Olympiad and Destination Imagination events to support these valuable national academic team programs.

Additionally, we host many camps during the summer to provide STEM enrichment opportunities to our students and to those in the broader community. One example is FSAPS STEAM Camp, which was developed by us and is run by our school. Additionally, we hosted two sessions of BioSTEM Camp and five sessions IDTech Camp last year. This year we will conduct and/or host STEAM Camp, Financial Literacy Camp, Robotics Camp, Math Olympiad Camp, BioIgnite Camp, CEO of My Life Camp, Chess Camp, and Kids4Coding Camp. Collectively these provide numerous opportunities for our students, as well as, those from our local community to participate in a variety of STEM activities.

Collectively, these initiatives and activities provide awareness and outreach to underrepresented STEM groups. Our efforts have resulted in us serving a diverse population that continues to expand and grow. We are proud Fulton Science Academy’s program is inclusive and offered without prejudice to all enrolled students equally.