KAMS Students Will Visit State Officials In Topeka

The two dozen exceptionally talented high school students who make up the “pioneer class” of the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science will travel to the state Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 20, to share their story with lawmakers.

KAMS, which was sited on the campus of Fort Hays State University in 2008 following a selection process by the Kansas Board of Regents, was created by the Kansas Legislature in 2006. Even with the budget crisis that began in the fall of 2008, the Legislature has provided funding of more than $600,000 thus far to KAMS in recognition of the benefit the new program brings to the economic future of Kansas.

“KAMS is off to a great start in its inaugural year, and we think it will be a valuable educational experience to bring the students to Topeka where they can learn firsthand about state government,” said Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president. “This will also provide a wonderful opportunity for legislators and other state officials to meet these exceptional young people and hear how this innovative approach to education is progressing.”

The Kansas Legislature established KAMS through SB139 to promote mathematics and science education, to reduce the “brain drain” in which many of the best and brightest young Kansans go away to out-of-state universities and never return, and to promote economic development by providing a well-educated workforce.

After inviting proposals from all the state’s public higher education institutions, the Kansas Board of Regents selected FHSU in 2007 to host KAMS, and the first KAMS class of 26 students, from across the entire state and representing all four Kansas congressional districts, convened in August 2009.

Kansas is the 16th state to have an early-entry-to-college program that offers a unique residential learning experience for high-achieving high school juniors and seniors who are academically talented in science and mathematics. KAMS provides a hands-on rigorous research environment with Ph.D. faculty that focuses on academics, research, leadership development and civic engagement. KAMS graduates will receive both a high school diploma and 68 hours of college credit.

Ron Keller, director of KAMS, said the students would be involved in research projects with faculty at other state universities as well as with FHSU faculty, which will increase the likelihood that many will continue their studies and eventually their graduate work at universities in Kansas. “We are cultivating the future citizen-leaders of our state,” Keller said.

The KAMS contingent will depart from Hays at 5 a.m. Wednesday and arrive in Topeka in time to attend a 9 a.m. meeting of the House Education Committee. Other events during the day will include a tour of the Capitol, recognition of the KAMS students on the floor of the House in the morning and the floor of the Senate in the afternoon, lunch with President Hammond and invited guests, a meeting with the Senate Education Committee, and a visit to the Kansas Supreme Court.

“It is a pleasure to recognize these outstanding KAMS students and those who have brought this program to fruition,” Senate President Stephen R. Morris, R-Hugoton, said of the upcoming visit. “Lawmakers should take a great deal of satisfaction from seeing the tangible results of this tremendous initiative.”

Sen. Janis Lee, D-Kensington, whose district includes FHSU, said she also looked forward to welcoming the KAMS pioneer class. “The Legislature has faced many difficult decisions since the economic downturn began in the fall of 2008, but we honored our commitment to fund KAMS because we understood the importance of education,” Lee said. “I have never been more proud of my colleagues in the House and Senate. By creating this academy for exceptional high school juniors and seniors, we are ensuring the highest quality education for our future leaders while building an innovative foundation for economic growth.”

“As a forward-thinking liberal and applied arts university, we believed FHSU would be the perfect home for the statewide academy that enhances the education of some of our brightest high school students,” President Hammond said. “The first year of KAMS has been exciting, and we look forward to the 2010-2011 school year when the enrollment will double as our current juniors become seniors and we welcome a new cohort of juniors.”

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