Middle school students now have the opportunity to attend a STEM early high school, focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math.

At Northern Vance High School the back wing is sectioned off with a “STEM students only” sign in a corridor. Fresh paint smell lingers in the air.  The STEM Early High School is ready to open as a full fledged middle school recognized by the state of North Carolina.

STEM Early High School

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In 2012, the program started with about 200 sixth and seventh graders on the first floor in the back of Northern.

Along with 107 new sixth-graders, Rey Horner joined as principal, and Iris Dethmers became assistant principal.

The district refitted the second floor of what used to be domain of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, creating more classrooms and an administrative office for a comfortable fit for all.

Dethmers returned to Vance County to help lead the STEM Early High School, leaving a term as principal of Warren New Tech High School.

She said parents, teachers and students have been wonderful so far.

“It’s going amazing, fantastic and wonderful, and that’s the absolute truth,” she said.

STEM Early High School

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Dethmers said she and Horner take pride in the opportunity to foster new engineering and technology initiatives.

“This is my baby,” she said. “This is the kind of thing we love to do.”

Horner said the STEM school was created to give students a head start in an advancing digital world, allowing them to solve practical problems through project-based learning. He plans to increase these goals in areas of science and engineering this year.

“In a regular middle school, they seem to be more book- and subject-based, while we seem to be more every day and what’s going on in the community-based,” he said.

STEM Early High School adopted a one-to-one philosophy: Every student gets a laptop.

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