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‘Dream Maker’ Founds STEM School for Girls

Communication alumna Cindy Reuther is the founder and executive director of the Laura Jeffrey Academy, a STEM charter school in Minnesota for girls.

Date: 3/23/2010
By: Kim Burdett
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Submitted
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 50 percent of the workforce but represent only 25 percent of workers in the science and engineering fields. A disturbing statistic when both fields plan to have an increase in growth in the next decade.

Laura Jeffrey Academy students and Cindy Reuther.
Communication alumna Cindy Reuther (top right) founded the Laura Jeffrey Academy in St. Paul, Minn.

Department of Communication alumna Cindy Reuther (MA, ’96) is working to change that.

Reuther is the founder and executive director of the Laura Jeffrey Academy, a girls-focused public charter school in St. Paul, Minn. that aims to empower girls in fifth through eighth grade.

“The barriers for girls, I believe, are alive and well—especially in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields,” Reuther says. “We are the only tuition-free, girl-focused public school in Minnesota, which is another reason I wanted to start a charter school. If a girl wants to be in an all-girl environment, she has to have wealthy parents. We wanted to open that door of opportunity and access for all girls.”

Cindy Reuther.
Reuther recently received a Dream Maker Award from the Ann Bancroft Foundation for her efforts in helping girls succeed.

The school has been in operation since 2008, starting with 100 girls and quickly expanding to 150 this year. Next year’s enrollment will exceed 200 students. Minorities constitute more than half of the student population and one-third qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Part of the school’s success is due to the innovative curriculum and year-round schedule designed by a group of expert educators. The outstanding test scores on Minnesota comprehensive exams are so far proving Reuther’s formula is spot on.

The students learn SMATH (a combination of science and math) and LASS (a hybrid of language arts and social studies), as well as physical education and health, art, music and Gateway to Technology (GTT), an engineering program. The school is set up so there are two teachers for every 28 students in core subjects.

The Laura Jeffrey Academy has been such a success, Reuther has been awarded the Dream Maker Award by the Ann Bancroft Foundation—an organization that aims to support girls and women in realizing their potential.

“I think that to have girls on a daily basis exploring their own potential, abilities and talents is the best way for them to thrive in an education system,” Reuther says. “It’s great to see a sustained effort where girls are supporting one another, learning about themselves internally and thinking about their own development.”

Reuther will see the first group graduating from Laura Jeffrey Academy next year. From there, she hopes to expand enrollment and use the model to open other charter schools in Minnesota and nationwide.

“Our goal is to give girls the competence in these subjects, thus gaining confidence and taking higher-level classes in high school, college and further on in their careers,” she says. “The charter movement allows us to bring innovation to education.”

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