The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has paved a $297,000 pathway for Canal Winchester students interested in the field of medicine with a Straight A Fund grant for the 2014-2015 school year.

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has paved a $297,000 pathway for Canal Winchester students interested in the field of medicine with a Straight A Fund grant for the 2014-2015 school year.

Canal Winchester is among 15 central Ohio school districts in a consortium that received $14.4 million in Straight A Fund grants to support Innovation Generation, a multidistrict collaboration to expand post-secondary options for students and close workforce talent gaps that exist in the region.

Innovation Generation is part of the national Pathways to Prosperity Network and seeks to establish career pathways in advanced manufactur-ing/robotics, business logistics, health care and information technology.

The collaboration is supported by Columbus State Community ColCentral Ohio, Battelle for Kids, Columbus 2020 and other community and business partners throughout Ohio.

The Eastland-Fairfield, Tolles and Ohio Hi-Point career centers also are part of the collaboration.

In addition to Canal Winchester, districts in the consortium are Columbus, Gahanna-Jefferson, Grandview Heights, Hilliard, Licking Heights, Marysville, New Albany-Plain Local, Olentangy, Pickerington, Reynoldsburg, South-Western, Upper Arlington, Westerville and Whitehall.

Curriculum Director Janine Taylor said Canal Winchester will follow the "Health Sector Pathway" because of the district's proximity to Diley Ridge Medical Center and the partnership it already has with Nationwide Children's Hospital.

The one-time grant will allow Canal Winchester to install two distance-learning labs at the high school and add about 90 laptop computers to the high school and the middle school, she said.

During the 2014-15 school year, the district will offer project-based elective STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes, including a new biomedical science course for juniors and seniors.

"We also plan to offer two semester courses for dual enrollment credit with Columbus State," Taylor said. "They are ... 'Computer Fundamentals' and 'Customer Service and Sales.'

"In upcoming school years, we hope to offer coursework that will enable a student to potential earn a pharmacy technician certificate as well as a health information management certificate."

In the 2015-16 school year, Taylor said a new "Medical Detectives" STEM program will be established for Canal Winchester eighth-graders.

While the district has received funding for programs to be implemented next school year, all must be self-sustaining after the first year.

Other partners associated with Health Sector Pathway include OhioHealth, Mount Carmel, BioOhio and the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce, Taylor said.

"As we grow the Health Pathway, these partners will advise us on their specific workforce needs as well as eventually help to provide internships for our 11th- and 12th-grade students," she said.

The district has already applied for a second round of Straight A Fund grants to expand its program and set up Innovation Zones at both elementary schools, Taylor said.

"These will be flexible learning spaces that will lend themselves to the integration of technology within project-based learning lessons for our students," she added.

According to a press release announcing the launch of Innovation Generation April 22, more than 1.3 million Ohioans -- 22 percent of the adult population -- have accumulated some college credits but do not have a degree or certification.

The goal of Innovation Generation is to prepare students to earn certification to move directly into the workforce or enter college.

"We are making bold investments in our plans for every student," said Steve Dackin, superintendent of the Reynoldsburg City Schools, which is the lead district for the Innovation Generation initiative.

"This multidistrict approach will create learning environments that allow students to explore multiple options qualifying them for careers in central Ohio's growing economy, or to continue with their postsecondary education."