BRF was recently awarded a grant from the Carolyn W. and Charles T. Beaird Family Foundation to purchase computers for Southwood High School students taking part in the Biotechnology Magnet Academy. It will also partially fund a College Navigator who helps Biotech Academy students prepare for college.

The $10,000 grant paid for five HP Chromebooks. The computers were checked out by selected students for the semester following a competitive vetting process to determine need and best use. The academy recently recognized that some students aren’t able to complete required coursework and homework while at school. Many of those students do not have computer or internet access at their homes and were attempting to complete assignments on their cell phones. The new computers will allow students to complete their work at home. The academy has also provided parents with information on inexpensive home internet access.

A portion of the grant will also be used to fund the College Navigator – a service provided by BRF to the Biotech Academy since 2011. Many Biotech Academy students are the first in their family to attend college and the College Navigator assists parents, guardians and students with college and financial aid applications, course selections, and ACT testing.

As part of its EdVentures initiative, BRF launched the four-year Biotechnology Magnet Academy at Southwood in conjunction with the Caddo Parish School Board, LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport (LSUHSCS), LSU Shreveport, participating biotech companies and Southwood High School in 2006. The program was designed to promote an educated workforce skilled in the STEM disciplines, necessary for maintaining and attracting new industry to Northwest Louisiana.

Of 244 current Biotech Academy participants, over 60 percent are first-generation college-bound, more than 70 percent are minority, and almost 70 percent are female. Since the Biotech Academy’s inception in 2006, Southwood High School has moved from a D to a B ranking. Among the academy’s programs, its BioStart Internship Program has served more than 125 students since 2009, providing a unique opportunity for a prestigious research internship opportunity at LSUHSCS.

Visit BRFLA.org/initiatives/edventures to learn more about Biotech Academy and BRF’s other education initiatives.