Pictured above: Michelle Berry, Director of the Biotechnology Magnet Academy; Dr. John F. George Jr., President and CEO of BRF; Dr. Kim Pendleton, Principal of Southwood High School; and Mark Evans, Market Executive for Regions Bank.
BRF was recently awarded a $30,000 grant from the Regions Foundation to support the Biotechnology Magnet Academy at Southwood High School in Shreveport. The Regions Foundation is a nonprofit initiative of Regions Bank that supports community investments, and this grant is the Foundation’s first award in North Louisiana.
BRF helped launch the four-year Biotech Academy in 2006 in partnership with Caddo Parish Public Schools, LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport, LSU Shreveport, biotech companies and Southwood High School. The goal is to promote an educated local workforce skilled in the STEM disciplines, which is necessary for maintaining and attracting new industry in Northwest Louisiana.
Students enter the program as freshmen and complete a curriculum that far exceeds basic Louisiana requirements. As part of the Biotech Academy, a select group of seniors get the unique opportunity to work alongside researchers at LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport as an intern in the BioStart Internship Program. Since 2009, more than 125 students have taken part in BioStart.
Since its inception the number of students participating in the Biotech Academy has grown from 25 the first year to over 250 in 2020. The Biotech Academy is unique in that it serves student populations generally underrepresented in STEM education. For example, the 2019-2020 participants were 66 percent female and 73 percent minority. A majority of the Academy students are the first in their family to apply to and attend college. Of the 2019-2020 senior class, more than 85 percent plan to continue their education after high school. Many of those students train for careers in healthcare or related fields which are critical, especially during health crises such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Since the Biotech Academy’s inception in 2006, Southwood High School has moved from a D to a B ranking.
“The Biotech Academy epitomizes the three strategic priorities of the Regions Foundation; those priorities are supporting education, advancing workforce readiness and improving financial wellness,” said Mark Evans, Market Executive for Regions Bank. “We believe this investment from the Regions Foundation, and the dedication of BRF to reaching underserved students with access to new opportunities, will lead to benefits for families throughout our community for years to come.”
“One of my top goals is to continue to build the Biotech Academy,” said Dr. Kim Pendleton, Principal at Southwood High School. “I’m so proud of what the program has accomplished, but I want to see the number of participating students and those who go on to college climb even higher.”
Visit BRFLA.org/initiatives/edventures to learn more about Biotech Academy and BRF’s other education initiatives.
BRF is an economic development organization establishing North Louisiana as a preferred destination for high-growth initiatives. Diversifying the region’s economy is its mission. It fulfills this mission through initiatives that support community, regional and national needs in health and medicine, resources for entrepreneurs and the development of a science and technology-based workforce.
About Regions Foundation
Regions Foundation supports community investments that positively impact the communities served by Regions Bank. The Foundation engages in a grantmaking program focused on priorities including economic and community development; education and workforce readiness; and financial wellness. The Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation funded primarily through contributions from Regions Bank.