Fifteen high school juniors will be the first students in Suffolk County's newly created STEM high school when it opens Wednesday.
The Regional STEM High School in North Bellport, located within Eastern Long Island Academy of Applied Technology, has nine students enrolled in its full-day program and six in its half-day program.
They will focus on engineering and applied science, with the potential to earn up to 15 college credits and participate in internships, shadowing of professionals on the job, and field trips.
The science, technology, engineering and math high school plans to expand next year to include the 12th grade, said Julie Lutz, chief operating officer of the Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
"It is a pretty rigorous program," Lutz said.
School districts nationwide have been placing greater emphasis on STEM-related content to better prepare students for the demands of higher education and success in the competitive global job market.
Students from districts within both the Eastern Suffolk BOCES and Western Suffolk BOCES areas can attend the new high school. More could enroll this year, officials said.
In Nassau County, the Doshi STEM Program at Nassau BOCES is starting its second year this month at the High School for the Arts in Syosset, with 46 students in the ninth and 10th grades enrolled in half-day classes.
Doshi STEM was Long Island's first magnet school for science and technology when it opened last September.
The STEM schools' tuition is paid by enrolled students' home school districts, which may receive a portion of the money back in state aid.
"STEM is where the action is in terms of jobs," said state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). "We need to educate students in areas where jobs exist."
LaValle introduced legislation last year allowing for creation of the countywide STEM school, and has secured $200,000 in funding for Eastern Suffolk BOCES for the program since 2013.
The new school has partnered with Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Long Island Matrix of Science and Technology and the Long Island STEM Hub. It will incorporate rigorous project-based learning and a strong emphasis on engineering.
Andres Martinez, 16, of Hampton Bays, is enrolled. He said he wants to be an engineer.
"It's something I have always liked," he said. "I like finding simple solutions to challenging problems. I took it as 'Why not take a chance?' "