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03/14/2002 - Biotech Academy Gets Grant

Virginia de Leon - Staff writer

High school and community college students in Spokane now have a chance to study biotechnology.

A $578,000 grant awarded last week to Community Colleges of Spokane will launch the Biotechnology Academy, a program that will prepare students for entry-level jobs in the field.

The academy, funded by a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, will open this fall at the Holley Mason Building downtown.

The academy will accept about 30 students, but will eventually have room for 60. Besides community college students, high school students from Spokane, Mead and Cheney school districts will be eligible to apply.

"We're going to be preparing students for industries involved in life sciences," said Lewis Rumpler, vice president and director of biomedical technology at the Inland Northwest Technology Education Center. "Students will receive highly specialized training to meet the needs of the local industry."

INTEC, which helped secure the grant, has been working closely with CCS to develop a biotechnology training program.

Students who finish the five-course program will receive a certificate that would qualify them for a variety of entry-level jobs -- from lab technicians at hospitals and universities to positions in biopharmaceutical manufacturing.

Some students will be enrolled through the school districts' Running Start program, which allows high school students to take college classes during their junior and senior years. Students in that program usually have high grade-point averages.

Others who have a strong foundation in math and science would also be good candidates for the academy, said Rob Hauck, Spokane Community College's dean of liberal arts.

Although a curriculum has been established, organizers are still working on the details of the academy, which could consist of two classes daily.

The biotechnology program would be similar to the Information Technology Academy, which started last fall at the Holley Mason Building. The ITA, a high-tech program for both high school and community college students, offers two college-level technology courses daily from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. The ITA has roughly 50 students from Spokane Public Schools enrolled.

Like the ITA, classes at the Biotechnology Academy will be taught by SCC faculty. The Biotechnology Academy, also will offer students "contextual learning" through internships with local companies including Hollister-Stier, Pathology Associates, Biomedex and GenPrime, Rumpler said. Educational Service District 101 in Spokane also was involved in the planning.

"We think it's a great opportunity," Hauck said. "There really isn't anything like this in Spokane."

Virginia de Leon
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