LSUA Extends Department of Defense STARBASE Program to Western Louisiana

November 09, 2022

Engaging Young STEM Talent at Fort Polk Army Base

LSU Alexandria has partnered with the Department of Defense to extend its premier youth outreach program, STARBASE, to Fort Polk Army base and schools in western Louisiana. Their shared goal is to help build the state’s and nation’s STEM workforce by engaging elementary and middle school students in hands-on science and engineering projects.

Making sure all U.S. students have an opportunity to pursue careers in STEM is a matter of national security, according to the Department of Defense. The need for science and engineering expertise is high in the military since technological superiority can save lives and end wars.

LSUA and the Department of Defense are now working in close collaboration with Fort Polk Army base and Vernon Parish schools to launch Louisiana’s fifth STARBASE program with a focus on underserved and rural fifth-graders.

“It’s critically important for the students in our region to see what STEM is like in the real world, working within these types of disciplines and seeing and hearing from the actual ones who make it happen day in and day out, like our friends at Fort Polk,” said Rebecca Foltz, director of the LSUA STARBASE program. “We hope to reach somewhere between 600 and 1,050 students each year.”

Anne Smith, elementary curriculum director for Vernon Parish Schools, sees the LSUA-Fort Polk STARBASE program providing new opportunities for all students in the region.

“We are excited to partner with LSUA,” Smith said. “Students will have an opportunity to begin thinking about career choices, including military service, at a younger age.”

Groundbreaking of LSUA's STARBASE program at Fort Polk Army base

At the groundbreaking for STARBASE Fort Polk near Leesville in western Louisiana, fifth-graders shook hands with military leaders. About half of all residents in Vernon Parish have a direct tie to the Army base. STARBASE is the Department of Defense’s premier youth outreach program, focused on underserved students, including in rural locations.

– Photo courtesy of Fort Polk

“LSUA is the right partner for us because we wanted to work with a community partner and an institution that can give our kids a pathway to higher education. There are lots of logical links between our programs and it’s great to now gather all partners in one focused effort in one facility.”

Tiffany Franklin-Koch, school liaison officer at Fort Polk Army base