Library, community college, and budding STEM school share new building

The Northeast Ohio IMPACT Academy is truly making an impact, especially for students in the region. Last year, the public school in Lowellville in Mahoning County was awarded the Ohio STEM School designation. This year, the school adds a new class space. While it’s currently housed in the Campbell City district’s K-7 building, now students will also learn in a newly remodeled Community Literacy Workforce and Cultural Center, slated to open this spring.

The $14 million center is a collaboration among multiple public and private partners and the Campbell City Schools. When completed, the 70,000-square-foot center will include a library branch, health clinic, college educational laboratories and athletic and event facilities. Kent Polen, chief administrative officer for the Northeast Ohio IMPACT Academy, offered details on his school and the new community building it will share:

Q: Tell us about the Northeast Ohio IMPACT Academy.

A: The Northeast Ohio IMPACT Academy was created and grew organically from our conversations with our partners during the planning stages of the Community Literacy Workforce and Cultural Center (CLWCC). During these meetings, it was obvious that services at the CLWCC would focus on adult job training and retraining. Conversations began about connecting younger students with educational opportunities that would build much needed skills for present and future employment opportunities.

The Northeast Ohio IMPACT Academy focuses on meeting the needs of the whole child by challenging each student to discover, learn and pursue a rewarding career. Through authentic, multidisciplinary learning opportunities and early college experiences, students will be empowered to become lifelong learners who contribute to our global society.

The Northeast Ohio IMPACT Academy is one of 69 STEM schools designated through the state of Ohio. We are the only STEM school in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties educating students in grades 7-12. The school opened for the 2019-2020 school year with 38 seventh- and eighth-graders from six districts in two counties. A multidisciplinary approach is used to integrate STEM curriculum with other content, 21st century skills and the IMPACT Habits.

The Northeast Ohio IMPACT Academy provides students with a rigorous curriculum that will give them the opportunity to earn career credentials and/or an associate degree by graduation.

While we follow and teach the content standards, we do not teach them in isolation. A multidisciplinary instructional design is utilized to integrate subjects around a central theme. With the use of technology and 21st century skills in every class, students increase and apply knowledge to explore and solve real world problems.

Q: What curriculum pathways does your school offer? Do you have programs/classes that partner with local community groups/businesses?

A: Currently, we offer four career pathways – Health, Digital, Design and Energy – to help students develop core academic, technical and workplace skills. Through our career counselors and the IMPACT Speaker Series, students will be exposed to the different pathways starting in seventh grade and continuing through graduation.

Students can further focus their education on a pathway through our College Credit Plus partnerships that will let students earn industry credentials and/or an associate degree.

Q: Last year, your school earned the Ohio STEM School designation. What does that mean to your school going forward?

A: When we started the process of designing a school and eventually applying for STEM designation, our No. 1 goal was to put the needs of the students first. We knew that we could design a STEM program that would benefit the students of Campbell. However, we wanted the school to model the CLWCC and be a catalyst for change in the Mahoning Valley. With the STEM designation, we can help develop creative thinkers, innovators and problem solvers who will directly impact business and employment opportunities in the Mahoning Valley.

Q: Your school will take advantage of a new building nearby, the $14 million Community Literacy Workforce and Cultural Center. What kind of spaces there will be available to your students? Do you think having the state STEM designation helped your school become a building tenant?

A: We will continue to have many of our classes in our current space in the Campbell K-7 School. However, with the CLWCC less than 100 feet from our door, it provides us with unique opportunities. The CLWCC was built on a slope lot, which allows the second floor to be on the same level as our current facility. The second floor of the CLWCC houses our post-secondary partners, Stark State College and Eastern Gateway Community College. There is also additional classroom space and a fabrication lab that can be utilized by the IMPACT students.

The CLWCC’s main floor houses Southwoods Health, the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, a large conference center, a gymnasium and multiple fitness areas for strength and cardio. All of these areas and partners allow IMPACT students to move education beyond the common school’s four walls into areas that include job shadowing and internship opportunities. (Other CLWCC tenants will include United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board and Mahoning Valley College Access Program.)

The Campbell City Schools district was committed to STEM programming, therefore we were going to be a building tenant with or without the STEM designation. The designation does allow our students to understand that IMPACT is not your traditional school. We truly focus on the slogan “What’s your IMPACT?” By focusing on this slogan, we have created IMPACT to be an educational beacon that is agile enough to meet the needs of students and their future.

Q: How did this building come about? What community partners came together to make it happen, and how was this effort accomplished?

A: We would like to say that the CLWCC was the brainchild of adults, but the seed was planted in 2016 by high school students during Civics Day activities, when students observe local government officials in mock meetings. As part of this event, some students told the Board of Education that they didn’t have space for recreational sports leagues, fitness, etc. This conversation prompted the board to take action.

Once we began the initial planning talks, the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County announced it would be closing three branches and combining them into one. The branch in Campbell was one of the three to be shut down. The library board was approached by Matthew Bowen, Campbell City Schools superintendent, about the prospect of making the new building a destination in the community. The district already had a relationship with the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley through its Success By 6 and Success After 6 programs. We have partnered with the organization on numerous grants to provide after-school programming for students. The leadership was excited about the possibility of having a bigger space to provide opportunities for more students. We partnered with Stark State College to receive a capital budget line item of $300,000 that went toward building space to offer classes and programs.

During the same time, Eastern Gateway Community College came aboard. Even though the college will offer different pathways for adults, it will focus on health care, especially a radiologic technician program. The Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board partnered with Campbell City Schools to receive a $500,000 grant to provide additional mental health services to students and families from the region. Southwoods Health will also be an important partner that will offer health services to the public. They will also offer educational opportunities for students through job shadowing and internship opportunities.

Mahoning Valley College Access Program recently came aboard to help counsel students on educational and career options as they move through our school.

Q: What do you think this new facility will mean to the area.

A: The CLWCC is truly a one stop shop. With the many partnerships in the building, we can meet the needs of Campbell and the entire Mahoning Valley.

Southwoods Health will provide access to medical care. The Public Library can provide traditional library services as well as programming for the students of the district. Both Eastern Gateway Community College and Stark State College will provide College Credit Plus, internships and career exploration for our students. They will both offer training and retraining for adults as well.

The wellness rooms, golf simulators and gym will be used by students and the community at large. Memberships and rental capabilities, yoga, fitness and tournament opportunities will also provide wellness activities. The conference center will provide space for training and event rental. Invitations will be sent to many organizations as a location to host meetings and events.

The cafe will provide beverages, refreshments and meals for all who enter the building.

Q: Back to your school: What is on the drawing board for the school in for the next few years?

A: Starting in the 2020-21 academic year, we are expanding to grades 7-12. Along with this grade band expansion, our partnerships will become more prevalent. To begin with, the Mahoning Valley College Access Program will provide us with two career counselors, for a nominal fee. These counselors will work closely with our students, providing opportunities to explore careers, internships, scholarships and college applications. They will also work with our post-secondary partners, Stark State and Eastern Gateway, to ensure our students are staying on track with their coursework.

They will also review trend data on current and future careers to help build the bridge between the students, school and their careers.

Q: Is there anything else you want to share about your school or the new building?

A: Please see the attached handout for additional information about the CLWCC and Northeast Ohio IMPACT Academy.

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