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West Florence selected to be part of Amazon’s $50 million education investment

West Florence High School

Students at West Florence will soon have the option of taking two Advanced Placement (AP) courses in Computer Science, introducing them to everything from the fundamentals of computer science principals to Java programming and app development.

The courses will be available through the Amazon Future Engineer program, part of Amazon’s commitment to spend $50 million on Computer Science education; West Florence was recently informed that it had been selected to participate in the initiative.

In this program Amazon partners with Edhesive, whose mission is to “dramatically increase access to the highest-quality STEM and computer science courses.” Edhesive curriculum is now being used in 48 states and 1,000 schools.

West Florence Principal Matt Dowdell said that being selected for this program continues the momentum the school has gained in expanding its AP course listing.

“We think this is the perfect complement to offering the AP Capstone Diploma,” Dowdell said. “One of our goals was adding more AP courses for the next school year and being chosen for this program will allow us to do just that.”

As part of the program, one of West Florence’s teachers will receive training on the Edhesive curriculum, which is provided for each course at no cost to the school or district. The teacher can also take part in coaching sessions to ensure they have the support that they need while teaching the course.

Chris Rogers, Director of STEM for Florence 1 Schools, said that participating in this program offers a lot of opportunities for students that continue even after they graduate high school.

“This is a three-part program for students,” Rogers said. “Part one is taking the AP Computer Science classes at the high school. Part two is that students pursuing Computer Science degrees in college can apply for a $10,000 scholarship through Amazon. The third part is that freshman and sophomore college students can apply for internship positions at Amazon.”

Rogers said that these classes serve as a stepping stone and also a confidence booster for students who are interested in Computer Science but are a little uncertain about choosing to study that in college.

“Sometimes it doesn’t take much to nudge a kid into the Computer Science field and sometimes they need to be wrapped up in it to realize that they can do it and that they are good at it,” Rogers said. “When they can take a class in high school and they are successful in it, that can take some of the fear away and maybe they will apply to study that in college. If you can do an AP course in that subject, you can probably handle the load pretty well and can be successful in college and then go on to have that kind of career.”

Rogers said that he hopes these courses will show kids just how broad the Computer Science field is.

“If you know how to do certain computer programming, you can go to work for just about any company in the world,” Rogers said. “ESPN, Disney, everybody uses Computer Science people in their businesses. Offering these courses really opens doors that may not have been open for students before.”