Dylan Smith-Sutton logged plenty of hours inside the walls of Carl Albert High School during his senior year.
The Oklahoma City University freshman was honored Thursday at the state Capitol for his efforts in the National Math and Science Initiative.
The initiative is a public-private partnership with companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Northrop Grumman pledged $900,000 to help fund the program for three years at Carl Albert, which is in the Midwest City-Del City School District, and at Lawton's Eisenhower High School.
The initiative is aimed at military families. Mid-Del and Lawton schools have large student populations that come from families serving at Tinker Air Force Base and Fort Sill, but all students at the schools were invited to receive instruction in math, science and English and take Advanced Placement courses on those subjects.
Students who earn qualifying scores of 3, 4 or 5 on the AP exams receive $100 checks for each qualifying score, said Dale Fleury, senior regional director for National Math and Science.
Smith-Sutton said the money he received Thursday comes in handy. His father is a retired military service member and is disabled. His mother also served in the military and was seriously injured in a car accident.
“I went through a difficult time,” Smith-Sutton said. “My dad is 100 percent disabled, and my mom has also had some health problems. You have to pick up money wherever you can. I started looking for jobs when I was 13.”
Smith-Sutton spent up to seven days a week at Carl Albert managing the difficult course load of Advanced Placement classes. He received qualifying scores on three of the four Advanced Placement exams he took as a senior.
“It's a lot of work but you have to push hard to be where you want to be today,” he said. “You have to train much harder than you can ever imagine.”
Mid-Del Superintendent Pam Deering praised the work of the students, along with the teachers who committed to coming in on weekends.
“They have dedicated many hours beyond the regular school day as have our teachers,” Deering said. “We think it's elevated our level of instruction. I think those teachers are getting techniques and training that brings a level of expertise to our schools that is beneficial to everyone.”
Eisenhower senior Raymond Lefebvre also was invited to speak during the reception. Fleury said other students will receive their checks during upcoming pep rallies at the two high schools.
Military families face unique problems. Smith-Sutton's father was deployed to Iraq twice. Families relocate frequently.
“Much is asked of our military families and they often have to face tremendous burdens,” Deering said. “But the quality of students our military families bring with them to our schools is amazing and we hope we can help them grow and work through the transitions they encounter.”
Fallin speaks at event
Gov. Mary Fallin spoke at the reception, praising both school districts and their partners who help fund the initiative.
State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said the initiative helps push all students toward academic achievement.
“This is about rigor, and rigor in our schools works,” Barresi said.
About the initiative
Oklahoma is one of 10 states participating in the National Math and Science Initiative. Plans call for the program to be added in four more states in the coming year. The initiative has expanded this year to other high schools in the two districts, with more than 750 students now participating, said Dale Fleury, senior regional director for National Math and Science.