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Fall 2009
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Making an Impact
Enthusiasm and dedication change students' lives

Sharing geographic knowledge through mentoring can start a chain reaction that enriches the lives of many people. Just ask Eric Cromwell.

Eric Cromwell
Eric Cromwell.

During the Plenary Session of the 2009 Esri International User Conference, Cromwell explained how a chance encounter 13 years ago with a local engineer, who was also a GIS user, ignited his interest in teaching GIS. Now, not only does Cromwell use GIS in his environmental science classes, but he has also had a tremendous impact as a GeoMentor for Joppatowne High School in Joppa, Maryland.

Jacqueline Smith, the science department chair at Joppatowne High School, was inspired by Cromwell and enamoured with GIS despite having no previous experience with the technology. Smith, who already had a busy schedule teaching five classes and coaching three sports, mastered the GIS course content and added it to the school's career path program.

Clearly, Smith feels the results made this effort worthwhile. "The coolest part about this course is the amount of time and energy students are willing to invest on their projects," said Smith. "On many occasions, they would get passes out of their scheduled classes to come to my room to do work—not because they were behind, but because they wanted to do more—they wanted to get ahead."

Using the STARS Curriculum from Digital Quest and ArcGIS software, the 16 students in the Joppatowne High School program have acquired a range of geospatial skills.

Two students from Smith's program class, Joey Hightower and Matt Kelly, joined Cromwell and Smith on stage at the 2009 Esri International User Conference. They described the projects they have worked on during the past year. By year's end, they will have earned their spatial technology and remote-sensing certifications and hope to intern with local government agencies using these new skills to solve local problems.

Eric Cromwell
Cromwell provides technical support and GIS knowledge during his weekly visits to Joppatowne High School.

Cromwell, who is now the coordinator of Accelerated Learning Programs at Harford County Public Schools in Bel Air, Maryland, visits Joppatowne High School on a weekly basis to supply technical support and GIS knowledge. He continues to wrestle with a temperamental network and an assortment of other less-than-ideal conditions.

In his closing remarks at the Plenary Session, Cromwell challenged the audience to support the GeoMentoring program. "That chance encounter led to what you see here on stage. Imagine what we could do if we were intentional about this. My charge to you is this: first, believe in the kids. Believe that they can use these tools. Second, find teachers willing to say I don't know' in front of the kids. That's frightening. Find teachers willing to go beyond what is written on the test. Ladies and gentlemen, let us make every day GIS Day."

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