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A Military Mom Advocates for NMSI

Congress designated May as National Military Appreciation Month based on the simple idea that our citizens should have the opportunity to publicly recognize the sacrifices and successes of American service members, past and present. Supporting military families by providing their children with the best possible educational opportunities is an important part of our mission at NMSI. During the month, we are highlighting perspectives of educators, active and retired service members and members of military families on the intersection of military life and STEM education. Today Linda Grismer, M.D., a military spouse and mother, shares why she is advocating to have NMSI's College Readiness Program in more military-connected schools.

 I first became acquainted with the National Math and Science Initiative about a year ago, though I didn’t understand how transformative their work is at the time.  My husband, Col. Michael Grismer, was serving as Vice Wing Commander at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. Our twin daughters were sophomores at Eagle River High School. In the spring, we received notice that students taking AP exams in the math, science and English would have the cost of their exams covered by a grant. It was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t know the grant was from NMSI at the time, or anything about NMSI’s College Readiness Program.
That summer, we moved to Delaware, where Michael took command of the 436th Airlift Wing at Dover Air Force Base. Our daughters enrolled in their ninth public school, Caesar Rodney High School, where they are now juniors. There, they signed up for several AP classes, which culminated in eight AP exams between them. At a cost of $91 per AP exam, that amounted to $728. I wondered about the grant that had covered these costs in Alaska and decided to call the Eagle River High School principal and inquire about how the school was able to provide that support. That’s when I learned about the breadth of NMSI’s College Readiness Program. It is truly a comprehensive program that not only subsidizes AP exam fees, but also provides extensive teacher training, tutoring for students, money for equipment and supplies and merit-based awards for students and their teachers. I was astounded at what a great program this was for students, providing tremendous support to help them succeed in rigorous college level coursework. I contacted NMSI personally, to find out how to get the program to Dover.
The more I learned, the more I was impressed. The program is making a huge difference in the lives of students across the country, supporting them to learn well and to succeed, and attracting more students to take challenging courses, especially in math and science.  NMSI also provides support for lower grades.  This is terrific news since funding for gifted and talented programs in elementary schools has typically been greatly reduced, if not discontinued altogether.  I also have a 5th grade child in the gifted and talented program, and so was especially happy to learn that NMSI would benefit younger students like him.
I am hopeful that NMSI will make it to Caesar Rodney High School and all other high schools that serve military students in the near future. All schools must go through an application and site visit process to ensure that teachers and students are equipped with the resources and support they need to be successful. As a military parent, I know firsthand how challenging it is to move to another state that has different graduation requirements and might even have courses in a different sequence. Military students taking AP exams without NMSI’s help are competing with students across the nation who do, leaving them at a disadvantage from missing out on valuable year-long tutoring and support for their teachers.
On a related side note, I just returned from the Odyssey of the Mind World Competition at Michigan State University where my son competed with his team.  It is a great program where elementary through college age kids learn creative problem-solving methods.  Other countries repeatedly won first place ahead of our own teams.  It is one more example of how STEM education should be improved as much as possible here at home, and the addition of NMSI is the best way that I can see for schools to graduate the most highly proficient students right now.