Obama visits Bladensburg High School to announce grants, see science classrooms

BLADENSBURG, Md. (WJLA/AP) - President Barack Obama was at Bladensburg High School Monday to talk education reform and visit with a few science classrooms.

The president was there to announce grants to schools and communities that are implementing innovative education programs that help students gain work experience.

The more than $100 million in grants are the result of an Obama executive order last year designed to better prepare high school students for college or for careers. Money for the program comes from fees that companies pay for visas to hire foreign workers for specialized jobs.

Fairmont Heights is one of three high schools in Washington's Maryland suburbs that have created a Youth CareerConnect Program. Other recipients include the Los Angeles Unified School District, the New York City Department of Education as well as school districts in Denver, Indianapolis and Clinton, S.C.

Rain couldn't dampen the mood of the students and staff of Fairmont Heights, who were very excited for the presidential visit.

"I'm ecstatic. I'm ecstatic," said teacher Cullen White, who launched the school's IT Academy three years ago.

Today, 210 students spend one period a day in White's classroom, training for high-tech careers.

"You know, we see our kids become more invested, they raise that bar for themselves. So they go from being okay with a C, to being okay with a B, to not being okay with anything other than an A," White explained.

Some students have already landed internships, making 16 to 17 dollars an hour. One even got a full ride to college. Teachers believe the extra money will only enhance the programs success.

"We definitely needed this to take things to the next level, and this will allow us to do a lot of great things for our students," White told ABC7.

In total, the federal grant will dole out $107 million to 24 nationwide programs.

Prince George's County schools will receive $7 million, which administrators will split between Bladensburg, Fairmont Heights and Potomac Heights high schools.

While the classrooms are already stocked with the latest technology, teachers said they hope to be able to hire guidance counselors, add field trips, and attract public speakers.

"The simple fact that it gives us a lot of options to do what's best for our students, in order to prepare them for careers, is thrilling," said White.