economically disadvantaged households.
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"It's not about the building or the location," Martinez said. "No matter where this school is, our kids are going to get the best education in Abilene."
The grant will also pay for a robotics summer camp in Abilene open to all area high school students.
This first year, the school has operated comfortably in an open room on the first floor of the Texas Tech building on Pine and N. 3rd streets. Students cross the street to eat lunch at the OneAISD center and check out books from the downtown library.
However, Dismukes said he's glad he chose to pursue a career track instead of athletics.
"Football is my dream," he said. "This school almost had enough to keep me here, but I want to play football."
"Recruiting last year was a challenge," admits Martinez, the school's director. "It was just me speaking about my vision."
However, Texas Tech already helped ATEMS secure a $270,000 grant. That will send every student to visit Texas Tech and NASA this spring, where they will stay overnight work in teams to design a simulated rocket and Mars rover.
Next year, Martinez hopes to initiate an intramural program.
ATEMS the Academy of Technology, Engineering, Math and Science has become a thriving reality.
He admits athletics and fine arts will deter many students. A handful of ATEMS students are returning to Cooper or Abilene High for swimming and cross country practice outside of regular school hours, but programs like football and band are not possible.
When John Martinez visited middle schools last year to convince students and parents to apply for the district's new math and science magnet high school, he could only present them with an idea.
Dismukes told them how he and his classmates are the first in the district to get their own laptop computers. They take upper level classes like physics without textbooks and already explore engineering software like AutoCAD. They've worked in groups on real life projects, started their own student organizations from scratch and gave the school a new name.
The absence of athletics doesn't mean student life is lacking. The young teens have taken advantage of their downtown scene after school, frequenting coffee shops and alleys perfect for skateboarding. Students used their school computer network called PeBL to post a poll so each could log a virtual vote for their preferred Friday night outing: movies, bowling or skating.
"We're looking to provide opportunities for students who might not consider this academic road," Martinez said. "I'm not just looking for the A plus students. I'm looking for any child that wants to be challenged and has a desire to work hard."
Martinez has been building community partners, and he admits he is disappointed by a recent announcement that Texas Tech is dropping its Abilene based graduate engineering school.
"That's a great opportunity for recruitment," Martinez noted.
the school with two year state grant for $480,000 and planned to work with Abilene Christian University to provide a location. Those plans with ACU fell through and a new location is still unknown.
One student already left ATEMS to play tennis, and Angel Moreno feels pretty certain he's not coming back to ATEMS for his sophomore year.
District officials hope to have next year's location nailed down by Spring Break.
Applications for next fall are due March 1 and the school will pick 25 sophomores and 125 freshmen from a lottery. Students can't have excessive discipline or attendance problems, and at least half will Under Armour Clutchfit White
This year, after his school has been open one full semester in the Abilene Independent School District, Martinez has living, breathing evidence of his vision in action to help him recruit students for next fall.
That's why he took freshman Jeremiah Dismukes to Craig Middle School last week. Dismukes told eighth graders at his alma mater that he is proud to have been a part of something "epic" in the school's inaugural year.
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Recruiting Abilene students to math and science
The tuition free, college prep school offers hot lunches and free transportation daily.
The building is probably too small as the school adds one grade for the next four years,
But Under Armour Clutchfit Lightning 2 like many pilot projects, some things have not gone as planned for ATEMS' first year.
While the location is unknown, AISD has committed with the New Tech Foundation to sustain the school at least through spring 2014, said Cathy Ashby, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction. She said the district fully expects the first ATEMS seniors to graduate in 2012.
Students say the first school dance was lively, with as many as 30 parent volunteers joining them on the dance floor.
And he expects recruitment to go well.
"It's tough, but you know I had to think about my future," he said.
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