Governor visits GF
Gov. Asa Hutchinson visited Green Forest High School on Tuesday to promote computer science education in Arkansas schools, encouraging students that they “can run the world from Green Forest” with high-speed internet access and an understanding of computer coding.
Hutchinson met with students in the Grim Gym to discuss why he has made computer science a top priority for his administration. He said he was inspired by one of his grandchildren, Ella Beth, to promote computer science education after seeing what she could do with the coding she learned while working on a summer project.
“I was campaigning, and my granddaughter Ella Beth, who is 11 years old, had a summer project where she learned coding,” he said. “She learned enough coding that she built an app for my campaign that you could use on your mobile phone to contribute and volunteer.”
Hutchinson continued, “I said ‘Wow, my 11-year-old granddaughter did this in a summer project’ and thought it would be good if we did this in every public school in Arkansas.”
He said he asked the state legislature to pass a law requiring all public schools to offer computer science education, making Arkansas the first state to do so.
“That is important because computer science jobs are so needed in our country,” Hutchinson said. “There will be one million unfilled jobs in the computer science field over the next four years, so, if you learn computer coding and get a degree, then you could start at a $60,000 salary.”
Learning coding is like learning French or Spanish, he said, because it’s the language of the computer. Computer science is learning how to tell the computer what to do, he said.
“If you have the skills, then your talents are going to be needed,” Hutchinson. “There are job opportunities, and it’s an opportunity to help shape the future. It’s an opportunity for you and for the state of Arkansas. That’s why it’s so important to me.”
Arkansas’ No.1 industry is agriculture, he said, and the No. 2 industry is tourism.
“There is also a grain manufacturing presence growing in Arkansas and a retail presence, but we have to bring technology companies along,” he said.
Even careers not directly in the computer science field can be enhanced by an understanding of coding, Hutchinson said.
“You may be sitting here thinking ‘I live in Green Forest. I don’t think computer science is in my future,’ ” he said. “If you want to be a farmer, someone is developing an app that tells you how much water to put on your crops, where you do it scientifically to measure how much water. If you want to be a doctor, then computer science is in the data analytics that help you to analyze patient information to do better research and have better cures.”
Hutchinson continued, “Whatever field you go into it can be enhanced by computer science. You will be better and more valuable because you have an understanding of computer science.”
The advantage of computer science, he said, is that it can be used and applied anywhere, including Green Forest.
“You can do technology from anywhere. All the opportunities are right here,” Hutchinson said.
While Green Forest is already a leader in academics, he said improvements need to be made to the computer science program, such as recruiting teachers who can help with instruction.
“Right now, you have some students taking it through Virtual Arkansas, but we need to recruit teachers who will help us teach computer science here,” Hutchinson said. “Students create the demand, and teachers always respond to it. They will say ‘This is what the students need’ and make sure it’s available to you.”
In Beebe, he said, an assistant football coach was recruited to teach computer science at the school. After taking a summer program to learn computer programming, the coach became a computer science instructor and had two students create a program that solves the problem of children being left in car seats on hot days, Hutchinson said.
“They got a patent for it, and Samsung awarded those students $30,000 apiece,” he said. “I will make this commitment to you. If you have a background in computer coding and computer science, then there is going to be a good-paying job for you.”
Hutchinson thanked the Green Forest student body for being so respectful and attentive during his presentation.
“This is one of the best student bodies I’ve ever been in front of,” he said. “Green Forest, thank you very much!”
High school principal Terry Darnell said the high school was honored to have Hutchinson visit. He said the assembly was organized and run by Green Forest seniors Mares Hernandez, Dakota Grigg and Creel Roberts and sophomore Jennifer Martinez.
“We are honored to have the governor speak to our students and proud of our student leaders for the work they put into this assembly,” Darnell said.
Hutchinson also visited students in Alpena earlier in the day.