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Office of Magnet Programs selected for $14.8 million federal grant

The WCPSS Office of Magnet and Curriculum Enhancement Programs and the Office of Grants have secured a $14.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will support the addition of design-thinking curriculum at five WCPSS Magnet schools. 


Design thinking takes students through a journey of understanding various problems and empathizing with those affected by them, which leads to a cycle of imagining, designing, creating and testing out user-focused solutions. This process helps students to see the power in their own creative abilities and the ways they can positively impact the lives of others by developing solutions to common problems.  


“Through Project Elevate, design thinking will encourage students to think outside the box and come up with innovative and impactful solutions to complex, and often novel, problems,” says WCPSS Magnet Senior Director, Dr. Kimberly Lane. “Research suggests that approximately 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented; therefore, our students must learn how to be problem-solvers and changemakers who can adapt and pivot when needed in an ever-evolving world.” 


The district will receive $3.4 million this year, with additional funding anticipated over the next four years, to establish five whole-school magnet programs: adding two new programs and significantly revising three existing magnet programs. They include the following:

  • East Wake Magnet High School will establish an innovative iTech & Design theme that will integrate design thinking into instruction, accelerate students’ post-secondary success through a dual-enrollment program with Wake Technical Community College, and add academic support.

  • Wendell Magnet Elementary School will significantly revise its existing Creative Arts & Science Magnet theme to become Design & Creative Arts, emphasizing design thinking for creative problem-solving.

  • Wendell Magnet Middle School will establish a new magnet theme to become Design & Creative Arts, strengthening the K-8 pathway from Wendell Magnet Elementary.

  • Zebulon Magnet Elementary and Middle Schools will significantly revise their existing Gifted & Talented magnet program by adding design thinking and STEM-Advanced Studies.

“We are elated to receive the Elevate Magnet grant and add STEM and design thinking to our magnet theme,” says Zebulon Elementary Principal David Newkirk. “Our students will use the design-thinking framework to analyze and solve problems of practice within our school and community. We will also add a STEM lab and advanced equipment to allow our students to stretch their thinking and apply knowledge. A deeper analysis and understanding of content has been proven to improve students outcomes, which is definitely a positive for our school community.“ 


About the grant

Magnet Schools Assistance Program Grants are federal grants designed to support teaching innovations that help students meet high academic standards, develop marketable job skills, promote diversity and increase the educational choices available to students. 


WCPSS is one of just a few school districts in the nation to receive an MSAP grant as part of this five-year grant cycle, from 2023-2028. This is not only the largest MSAP grant the district has ever received but also the fifth consecutive application in which the district was chosen as a recipient. WCPSS now has four MSAP grants in operation, a new record for the district that brings special funding to 17 magnet schools across Wake County.