Commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI), the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced two ambitious new goals: establish the program in every state and introduce 10,000 students to careers in the transportation industry.
"On behalf of President Bush, I salute all those involved in the National Summer Transportation Institute," U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said. "He has encouraged all Americans to learn more about how our modern transportation system enhances our economy and contributes to our freedom. This program is a great example of how partnerships can be forged to show our youth the benefits of studying and applying advanced math, science, and technology skills. Efforts like these help to underscore the importance of education and will benefit transportation in the future."
The NSTI offers a four-week introduction to all modes and careers in transportation as well as academic enhancement activities. The on-campus sessions are designed to encourage a diverse cadre of motivated middle and high school students to pursue transportation careers and to address the need for a well-trained, qualified, diverse workforce in the 21st century. The NSTI is one of several educational initiatives of the DOT, challenging the country to work with youth of all ages and help them to focus on math, science, and technology skills so that they are prepared to serve in the transportation workforce of the future. To date, the NSTI host sites include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other minority institutions of higher education across the nation, with South Carolina State University serving as the institutes' National Resource Center.
Under the FHWA plan, NSTI programs, which are now in 26 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, would be established in all 50 states. In addition, the agency would like to increase to 10,000 the number of secondary school students introduced to the transportation industry and transportation-related careers. Both goals are to be achieved in the next five years.
"In the next five years, through our collective efforts, we can realize an increase in the level of transportation career awareness among students participating in the institutes," FHWA Administrator Mary E. Peters said. "Without question, the power of partnership has been our beacon for the success of the NSTI and will continue to guide us as we accomplish our goals."
Students are selected on the basis of interest in engineering, science, transportation and technology, academic performance, particularly in science and math courses, and recommendations from counselors and teachers. Since the NSTI inception, the institutes have served 4,652 students.
In 1991, a report by a HBCU task force led to the creation of the FHWA's partnership with South Carolina State University (SCSU) and the SCDOT to sponsor a summer transportation institute. Its purpose was to encourage promising minority and disadvantaged youth to pursue challenging transportation careers. In 1993, 20 ninth- and 10th-grade participants were involved. In 1995, the NSTI expanded to six HBCUs with 135 students.
From 1996-1998, the number of participating colleges and universities increased to 20 and included Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and other institutions with 1,091 graduates. Congress recognized the success of the NSTI by authorizing funding under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21).
In addition to FHWA support, the NSTI receives assistance from local chapters of the National Urban League, state departments of transportation, private sector companies and other federal agencies. Participating colleges and universities host the institutes and provide housing and instructors for each session.
Currently, 41 institutes are operated at HBCUs, HSIs, TCUs and other institutions. Thirteen participating colleges and universities have been recognized by FHWA for their leadership and creativity, and the development and education of youth exposing them to the importance of transportation to the economic growth of our country and to challenging transportation careers.