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HOBART — Student innovation was at the forefront of READY NWI’s 2019 Summer Institute on Thursday.

The annual gathering of Region educators regularly brings hot topics in education to the drawing board for professional development and collaborative brainstorming sessions. In this year’s Summer Institute, organizers focused on allowing district leaders and Region professionals to learn from one another through distinct breakout sessions.

“In many cases we are the experts,” said Roy Vanderford, director of business development for Northwest Indiana’s Center of Workforce Innovations. “We need some in-depth time to talk to each other.”

READY NWI, an alliance of educators from 35 districts in seven Northwest Indiana counties, meets regularly throughout the year to build connections between K-12 schools, higher education institutions and workforce leaders.

On Thursday, about 120 educators — superintendents, principals and counselors included — discussed three key issues in education: meeting students’ needs for social-emotional learning; identifying and addressing student drug use, and developing appropriate programs to fulfill Indiana's changing graduation requirements.

Preparing for the new graduation pathways — high school requirements which must be met beginning with the incoming freshman class — was a major theme of this year’s Summer Institute opening remarks. Speakers focused on developing community partnerships to meet the new competencies and celebrating student successes in Region programs already in place.

Hobart Superintendent Peggy Buffington shared a video presentation of student start-up team RearVue, which took its idea for a bicycle safety sensor and app developed for the state’s Innovate WithIN contest, to the next level by seeking a patent for their technology.

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The three recent Hobart High School graduates developed the idea in a Project Lead the Way engineering class. Buffington used these students’ success as an example for what can be possible when pairing classes teaching different disciplines to form innovative, well-rounded team projects.

“Business, marketing, IT, engineering design and development, biomed, entrepreneurship — let those kids learn how to work together and they’ll come up with a great project,” Buffington said. “This is a great talent pool.”

Hammond Early College Principal JoEllen Raby introduced three recent Morton High School graduates — Brien Nash, Charlesiana Roberts and Sarah Hacker — who through Hammond’s Area Career Center University health careers pathway also graduated this year with an associate’s degree from Vincennes University.

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Nash, who plans to attend Purdue University in the fall, said he will be entering with 70 credits under his belt, giving him the ability to bypass general education courses and save money entering college.

“The Area Career Center has been like a second home for me,” Nash said.

Lake Central High School’s Carter Goldman — recently named to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s STEM team — also took the stage at the Summer Institute to share his vision for developing robotics software connected to virtual reality technology to improve worker safety in manufacturing.

“That’s why we do this — for the students and for their connection to employment,” Vanderford said. “We’re continuing to make a difference.”

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