Village Academy Students Mapping Their Futures

Village Academy Students Mapping Their Futures with GIS
Posted on 06/04/2019
Student in front of white board

High school students at Village Academy on the Art and Sara Jo Kobacker Campus are using data and geography to make a difference for their community in a the first-of-its kind program in Palm Beach County.

Through the “Connecting Social Justice & STEM using GIS at Village Academy,” students have created solutions for real-world challenges impacting Palm Beach County residents.

Students use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Technology and ArcGIS program offered by ESRI (Environmental Science Research Institute) to analyze data and geography to tackle problems such as the opioid epidemic, red tide and other environmental issues.

Jennilee Pelayo, a freshman in the program, used the data collected in the class to determine that doctors in Florida are distributing more opioids to patients than in other states and decided to further track where unused medicines could be dropped off rather than falling in to the wrong hangs.

Pelayo created a database and mapped locations of all of the medication drop-off locations in her community and plans to further her research by creating a mobile app that the public can use to keep unwanted opioids off the streets.

Pelayo says that most of the lessons were self-directed with the assistance of teacher Nellie Fernandez who spent much of her career as a GIS specialist before becoming a teacher at the school. Fernandez says that when she joined the school, principal Latoya Dixon took note of her experience and they set the goal to bring GIS training to the school.

The first-year program, which has a four-year track for students, adheres to the mission to bring a 21st century skill set to learn and solve problems through GIS and S.T.E.M. lessons.

Village Academy was able to launch the program thanks to a $5,000 grant from Motorola Solutions Foundation, the charitable arm of Motorola Solutions, Inc., that was secured through the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County.

“This grant represents the heart and soul of the Education Foundation. We bring the business community to the world of education and watch miracles happen. The Motorola Grant is an amazing opportunity to challenge our students to use emerging technologies to solve real world problems,” said James S. Gavrilos, President/C.E.O. of the Education Foundation.

The majority of the population at Village Academy are underrepresented minorities in the field of Computer Science. By teaching students to engage in education by addressing social justice, computer science and environmental engineering, we are equipping students with lifelong skills and expanding interests in careers in science and engineering.

“Village Academy is an outstanding school serving some of the most economically-challenged students in our District. The grant from Motorola Solutions Foundation is more than an educational grant it is an open door to a new future in S.T.E.M. for these kids,” Gavrilos said.

The School District of Palm Beach County