Enhancing the quality of life in southern Maryland is part of SMECO’s mission. The Co-op sponsors events for students to encourage them to excel in math, science, and technology. These events include the local MATHCOUNTS competition and the Elementary Math Challenge. Over the years, thousands of students in SMECO’s service area have participated in educational events supported by the Co-op. We also honor the work of the region’s educators by recognizing teaches with the SMECO Outstanding Teachers Awards each year. SMECO awards college scholarships to four high-school seniors every year.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) hosts an annual Youth Tour for students from across the nation to visit Washington, DC. In 1964, approximately 400 young people from 12 states attended. Since that time, the Youth Tour has continued to grow. More than 50,000 students have participated in the NRECA Youth Tour over its history. Four high school students from SMECO’s service area join other cooperatives from around the nation where participants learn about the United States government in action. During their week-long study-tour of the nation’s capital, students meet members of congress, attend workshops on the roles that cooperatives play in communities, and visit an electric cooperative opportunity fair.
Each year, SMECO awards four scholarships to high school seniors who live in the Co-op’s service area. Scholarships are awarded to local students who excel in their endeavors and who show promise in their chosen field of study. Scholarships are based on the applicants’ scholastic achievement, financial need, and school and community involvement. As of 2022, SMECO has awarded scholarships to 120 students in the 30 years since beginning the program in 1993.
A competitive technological world requires a proficiency in mathematics as a foundation for success in science, technology, and engineering. MATHCOUNTS aims to boost student interest in mathematics by making the subject challenging and entertaining. Each year, more than 500 regional competitions are held in middle schools across the country, with winners advancing to state competitions and then to the national competition.
According to its website, MATHCOUNTS alumni are more likely to continue with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), with 3 out of every 4 alumni studying a STEM field in college—nearly three times the national average. And MATHCOUNTS builds the critical thinking and problem-solving skills necessary for success: 95% of teachers believe that MATHCOUNTS problems are effective at improving their students’ problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
Sponsors for the local MATHCOUNTS competition are SMECO and the Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s county public schools, with the support of the National Society of Professional Engineers. Volunteers from SMECO help score the tests. Winners of the Southern Maryland chapter competition go on to compete in the statewide contest at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The top four individual competitors from each state competition receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the national competition in Washington, DC, in May.
SMECO Outstanding Teachers Award
The SMECO Outstanding Teacher awards honor local educators for their leadership in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, including career and technology education.
The Co-op works with the school systems of Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s counties to select deserving teachers for the awards. Teachers are chosen for their outstanding performance in the areas of creativity, rapport with students, enthusiasm for teaching, professionalism, and innovative teaching methods. Over the past 31 years, SMECO has recognized almost 458 local math and science teachers.
Our gifted honorees understand that their job is about more than teaching mathematics, science, and technology. It’s about thinking creatively and making classroom and virtual teaching experiences exciting for students. They identify ways to leap outside of the educational norms and create experiences that are unexpected, unique, and ultimately more memorable. They teach skills that are important not only to employers and the economy, but also important to our future.