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Amazon donates $10,000 in equipment to Kannapolis Middle School

KANNAPOLIS — Opportunity was the word of the day Thursday as employees of Kannapolis’ Amazon Fulfillment Center surprised Kannapolis Middle School students with $10,000 worth of STEM equipment.

The donation included laptops, 3D printers, drones and builder kits, offered by Amazon as a way to give back to the community where its employees live.

For Principal Nick Carlascio, the gift brought with it an opportunity for the school to have its first coding, drone and robotics.

“This bridges the gap for our district,” Carlascio said. “We have a great STEM program in the elementary school and a phenomenal one in the high school, and now we’re actually creating pathways for these kids. We’re really excited about that.”

Enthusiasm for the future class was already brewing Thursday as students used technology — iPads and robots — to practice one future field of study: coding.

Kannapolis City Schools Superintendent Chip Buckwell said the class, in turn, could lead to college and careers that are “life-changing.”

“In my world, it’s about access,” Buckwell said. “Can they walk into a company six years from now when they graduate and have a credential that can lead to a job or a meaningful career for them? That becomes life-changing for their families.”

Buckwell said the access to local jobs is something Kannapolis has lacked since the closure of Pillotex in 2003.

“Amazon doesn’t just locate anywhere,” said Buckwell. “There’s a reason why they’re here, and this is the reason why. These kids can do what they need to have done for their business down the road.”

Shannon Todd, general manager of the Fulfillment Center, agreed.

“This is a great way to give some of these students … an opportunity to jump-start their career in STEM,” Todd said. “At Amazon, we’ve got lots of good-paying jobs with great benefits that will utilize the skills these students grow and progress through their careers.”

Looking ahead to next year’s new robotics and coding class, career and technical education teacher Ashlyn Ozment said the goal is to vertically align coding from elementary to high school, building on prior knowledge to have students college- and career-ready by graduation.

And Ozment is already making plans to implement the class in ways that will engage and spark enthusiasm in young learners, looking toward activities ranging from civil engineering to video game design.

Students will even get the chance to design modifications on gaming platforms like Roblox or Minecraft next year.

“I want to keep their excitement and joy for learning in the classroom because most students drop off at the middle and high school level,” said Ozment. “We want to keep that joy in what we do, which is why we want to make this program as fun and engaging as possible.”

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