June 13, 2014 12:00 am • By Dave Ryan Times Columnist
In 2005, the Hammond Academy of Science and Technology was merely a dream of Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. as he convened a task force to explore options and measures that would potentially result in a new learning center for the city.
Mayor McDermott assembled representatives from the School City of Hammond, Purdue University Calumet and the business community, and challenged them to design not only a new school that would serve students from grades 6 to 12, but also develop a curriculum that would serve as a showcase for academic learning.
The mayor’s “dream school” eventually would be developed not as a magnet school, as originally planned, but rather as an exciting collaboration chartered by Ball State University and mentored by professors and students from Purdue University Calumet.
With hands-on supervision by then-Chancellor Howard Cohen of PUC and his Dean of Education Dr. Bob Rivers, and his wonderful staff, PUC developed the curriculum for the new charter school based upon project-based learning techniques.
Additionally, the mayor wanted the new school to be developed in downtown Hammond to serve as a catalyst for the city’s efforts to spark re-investment in the downtown area. As a result, a beautiful new school was built in the center of Hammond.
On June 5, the first senior class from HAST, fittingly, marched across the stage at PUC to the delight of the mayor, PUC Chancellor Thomas Keon, HAST School Board President Kris Sakelaris, HAST Principal Dr. Sean Egan, and hundreds of very proud HAST parents.
Not only did these HAST seniors graduate June 5, but they graduated with distinction! Ninety percent of the senior class graduated, with 93 percent of them having been accepted to a four-year university, and 95 percent of the graduating seniors having received dual credit classes (10 seniors had between 45 and 55 dual credit hours).
This is a remarkable achievement for both the graduating seniors as well as the HAST faculty and staff, who vividly remember that only four short years ago they began their journey in modular units in a parking lot in Hessville.
Hats off to the HAST community – a job well done!