ASMS Dorm Renovations

May 11, 2018 | Community | Alabama Power Foundation

Dorm Expansion Opens Doors

“Do you want to walk on eggs?” The question comes from a high school student who is grinning ear-to-ear and leaning out of a classroom. His excitement is almost palpable. He’s speaking to his school’s vice president.

“We’re standing on eggs and trying not to break them. Like that YouTube video. Want to try?” John Hoyle, vice president of the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science (ASMS), pulls off his dress shoes as he follows the student into his classroom.

It’s Special Projects Week at ASMS, and this class is studying the science behind memes and viral internet videos. This week, between the school’s two main semesters, allows students to explore topics outside their traditional curriculum. Throughout the school, students are busy in photography classes or doing science experiments. Some are in the Mobile community building Habitat for Humanity homes. Some are on school trips out of town.

For the past 26 years, ASMS has played an important role in developing the state’s workforce for careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and it has the record to prove it. Since the inaugural class in 1993, more than 2,100 students have graduated from ASMS, and 100 percent of the graduates have gone on to college, with the majority entering STEM fields. By the numbers, the average graduate has an ACT score of 29. ASMS graduates have earned over $200 million in college scholarships since 2000.

But ASMS isn’t just unique in its focus on developing STEM leaders, it’s the only fully residential public boarding school in the state; all students live on campus in dorms overseen by residential advisers. This format facilitates in-depth learning, small class sizes and close interaction with faculty. Classes, room and board are free to all students.

ASMS’s admissions department takes care to look for students who may not have financial access to higher levels of education, and many students come from rural areas where access to advanced math and science coursework may be scarce. In any given year, ASMS students represent most of Alabama’s 67 counties and, over the history of the school, students have come from every corner of the state. Eighty percent of the student population is from outside Mobile.

Previous support from the Alabama Power Foundation helped ASMS purchase laboratory equipment that had not been updated since the school’s founding in 1989. Dr. Monica Motley, president of ASMS, knows how access to educational resources can make a difference in a student’s future. She says that updating the lab and equipment was extremely important. “We feel like the best students in the state deserve to have access to the best equipment.”

In 2017, an Alabama Power Foundation donation supported the renovation of a dorm for 13 additional students. Because of the financial support, ASMS is able to admit more students who might otherwise not have a chance to enroll.

This new dorm is on the fourth floor of the school’s humanities building and serves as an honors dorm for female students. Amber Day, head of communications for ASMS, says the dorm was much needed. “In the past few years, we have seen a lot more applications from highly qualified girls around the state. This dorm allows us to accept more.”

ASMS receives more than 500 applications each year, but accepts only about 125 new students.  “Continuing support and donations from the Alabama Power Foundation help us to offer the ASMS experience to other students,” Motley says.

The additional dorm space also increases the capacity for ASMS’s summer program, which is a huge part of the school’s recruitment strategy. Each summer, ASMS invites middle schoolers from across the state to campus for week-long camps. The summer program gives prospective students the opportunity to try the ASMS student experience; many participants stay in the dorms and all attendees get to work with ASMS’s teachers, most of whom have a Ph.D. in their area of expertise.

“The summer camp is a great recruitment tool for us,” says Day. “Middle schoolers come to campus and just fall in love with the school. This year, more than half of our incoming class attended the summer camp in the past.”

Back in The Science of Memes, Vice President Hoyle has his arms over the shoulders of two students as he stands on wooden boards balanced on top of two egg cartons. Students are whooping and cheering – it looks like he has succeeded in distributing his weight evenly enough that the eggs don’t break. As he dismounts, there is a cracking sound, a collective groan. He leaves the class to their discussion of why the eggs cracked.

“We give our students an experience they can’t get anywhere else,” says Hoyle, lacing his shoes back on. “Our teachers want to be here, our students want to be here. It’s a really special place, and we are so excited for the new dorms, because that lets us give this opportunity to more students.”

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