Cameron University will receive more than $400,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture to develop a distance-learning network that will be used to improve learning opportunities for students in 28 rural schools across southwest Oklahoma.
The announcement was made Thursday by the USDA, which is investing $42.3 million nationwide to help rural residents gain access to health care and educational opportunities. Grants totaling $1.7 million have been awarded to Cameron University, Lane Public Schools, and Okmulgee Public Schools to provide distance-learning services in their respective portions of Oklahoma.
Cameron’s $412,090 grant will be used to link the university’s Duncan and Lawton campuses to 28 rural school districts in Caddo, Comanche, Cotton, Garvin, Grady, Jefferson, Kiowa, Stephens and Tillman counties. CU will use interactive video technology to provide high school students access to college-level coursework, including those in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Rural school districts that will be part of the network are Anadarko, Boone-Apache, Carnegie, Cement and Cyril in Caddo County; Cache, Chattanooga, Geronimo, Indiahoma and Sterling in Comanche County; Temple and Walters in Cotton County; Elmore City-Pernell in Garvin County; Rush Springs and Verden in Grady County; Ryan and Waurika in Jefferson County; Snyder in Kiowa County; Bray-Doyle, Central High, Comanche, Empire, Grandview, Marlow, Velma-Alma in Stephens County; and Frederick, Grandfield and Tipton in Tillman County.
Cameron University, which has more than 25 years experience in the distance-learning field, will deliver the appropriate STEM courses to rural high schools that will enable students to satisfy high school graduation requirements while simultaneously earning college credit applicable to their future degrees.
The network will allow teachers, administrators and paraprofessionals to continue their education and advance their career goals. Professional development will be provided through access to workshops, training, and the latest research in the field of teaching and instructional delivery with an emphasis on STEM coursework.
Parents, students and counselors can participate in training sessions and workshops explaining the process of enrolling in college, including the financial aid component. These will be led by Cameron University staff.
The project will also focus on distance learning presentations about the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program. These will be geared to students, parents, and counselors to ensure eligible students will receive access to the scholarship program.
Yet another facet of the project will connect end-user schools with mental health resources at Cameron to increase awareness of mental health issues and provide training.
Overall, the USDA is funding 86 projects through its Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program. The program helps rural education and health care entities remotely reach students, patients and outside resources. These capabilities make world-class education and health care opportunities accessible in rural communities.
“The USDA is helping rural America build back better using technology as a cornerstone to create more equitable communities,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “With health care and education increasingly moving to online platforms, the time is now to make historic investments in rural America to improve quality of life for decades to come.”