ULSTER - Organizers of the new ThinkSTEM Academy in Ulster - which will focus on science, technology, engineering, and math - say their goal is to eventually open a high school program in Bradford County that would have a similar focus.

"Our ultimate goal is, in a few years (when the federal funding for the ThinkSTEM Academy ends) to then create the first STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) magnet high school in Pennsylvania north of Interstate 80," Doug Ulkins, who works as a site coordinator for several intermediate units, said Thursday at a press conference.

The press conference was called to provide information to businesses, school officials, and the media about the formation of ThinkSTEM Academy, which is the after-school program in Ulster that will open on Oct. 1 for students in grades 6 to 8.

The ThinkSTEM Academy will be funded over the next three years by a $999,000 federally-funded Century 21 grant, said Ulkins, who had served until last year as the superintendent of the Athens Area School District.

Organizers want to locate the magnet high school in the Sheshequin-Ulster Elementary School in Ulster, which is where the ThinkSTEM Academy now occupies three classrooms, said Mark Burke, Intermediate Unit 17 program manager.

"The goal is to turn this into the magnet high school after three years," Burke said.

In an interview, Ulkins said that organizers are looking at having participating students attend the STEM high school for a half-day, and then spend the other half-day in the school district where they reside.

Establishing the magnet high school "would indeed be a boon for the local communities," Ulkins said at the press conference.

"When people are asked to move here for employment, the first thing they look at are public schools in the area," Ulkins said. "If we can boast of a STEM magnet high school, this will undoubtedly help recruit top employees. If we can incentivize our young people to return to the area after they graduate, they will become the most loyal of employees and active community members.

"Our middle school students who will become excited by this unique curriculum and style of teaching and mentoring (at the ThinkSTEM Academy) in the coming months, may be our first class of the STEM magnet high school in a few short years. That is our vision," Ulkins said. "We are aiming for nothing less than world class learning in an environment steeped in problem solving, deep thinking, and team work."

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.