Harford County Public Schools is "very pleased and very proud" that Aberdeen and Havre de Grace high schools are the first schools in the county to be involved in the National Math and Science Initiative's grant program for military families, school officials said Monday.
Superintendent Robert Tomback welcomed and thanked the many partners present at the program's kickoff event at the A .A. Roberty Building in Bel Air.
Tomback called the grant initiative a "program that will benefit them [the students] dramatically."
Funding from the grant, which will be given by The Boeing Company for Aberdeen High School and by the Department of Defense Education Activity, or DoDEA, for Havre de Grace High School, will put the National Math and Science Initiative's Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program into the two schools.
According to the school system, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace high schools serve more than 350 United States military families.
Among those students who will benefit from the program are Monique Watson, a junior at Havre de Grace High School, and Morgan Sulzbach, a sophomore at Aberdeen High School.
Both were present at Monday's kickoff and spoke about how important the program was to them and their schools.
Monique's father has served the U.S. military for 21 years and is leaving this week for a six-month tour in Afghanistan, she told the crowd.
She called him her "rock and thanked him for his encouragement that pushed her into taking AP courses.
"I really appreciate the epicenter of the program," the junior said, referring to the military families who will benefit.
Monique added that she hopes to enroll in an ROTC program in college.
Morgan also thanked the school system and its partners for "all the time and hard work you've put into getting this grant into our schools."
Morgan, who is taking two AP courses, said it means a lot to her and her classmates to have the opportunities the grant provides, such as financial support.
She commented that many classmates were concerned about paying full price for AP exams, and with the grant's assistance, they will now be able to take them at half the price.
"Overall, this grant, it's amazing opportunities it can provide," Morgan said, adding it encourages students to do their best.
According to the College Board which administers the AP tests, each test costs $87 to take during 2012.
Representatives from DoDEA, Boeing and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy also spoke.
Dr. Arun Seraphin, principal assistant director for national security and international affairs at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said the program is a step in "realizing the president's goals" to advance science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and provide opportunities to students with parents in the military.
"Today we're right there at the nexus of math and science and support our military families," Seraphin said.
Seraphin added that his wife comes from a military family and has heard firsthand how hard it is to get a quality education when moving around often like so many military families do.
"We've already seen the results" of what the program has done for students, he said.
In 2010, the Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program was launched in four schools. In that first year, AP math, science and English scores increased 45 percent.
Seraphin stressed the importance of spreading the program among more schools because it will give "a better chance [for students] to do math and science and make the world a better place."
Marilee Fitzgerald, director of the Department of Defense Education Activity, said, "It is an honor to be among such stars in the country."
The grant "acknowledges the important contribution they [the students] make," Fitzgerald said, and the DoDEA aspires to reach the "highest level of student achievement."
Waldo Carmona, director of Networked Tactical Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance for Boeing Defense, Space and Security, also focused on the importance of a child's education.
"The important things are our youth and the promise they bring," said the former Army pilot.
He commented that it was great to see the community putting in the time and effort in supporting military families.
Tomback said the initiative is "a program we believe will strongly benefit two of our high schools," but he also wants to expand AP testing to the county's other eight high schools. In recent years, the superintendent has proposed having the school system pay for the tests, but the school board has balked at approving such an expenditure.
"Our nation depends on the success of all of our students," Tomback said. "Let's not lose the focus because that is the imperative we have."