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Second lady Dr. Jill Biden visited Pensacola Friday to announce expanded funding and support for children of local servicemembers and veterans.

As part of her and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Joining Forces Initiative, Biden visited Escambia High School to address a crowd of more than 1,000 Pensacola-area high school students, educators and local officials.

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Escambia High School students cheer as Jason Silva of the National Geographic Channel quizzes students at Escambia High School in Pensacola Friday. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

“We ask a lot of military families and I believe that all of us should make our best efforts to show our support,” Biden said. “As a teacher, I see the potential in all of you. And you should be given the opportunities you deserve. Today is about all of the students in this room; your education and your future.”

The announcement by Biden expands support for the dependents of servicemembers by providing them access to the National Math and Science Initiative’s College Readiness Program for Military Families.

By expanding the College Readiness Program, more military-connected schools will be able to provide their students with access to rigorous AP courses and support, according to NMSI President Gregg Fleisher.

“These consistent, high-quality educational opportunities, will ensure the students’ competitiveness in college and beyond,” Fleisher said. “With this expansion, NMSI will now serve a network of 200 military-connected schools in 33 states across the country.”

Dr. Jill Biden speaks to more than 1,000 students, educators, and local officials at Escambia High School in Pensacola Friday. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

Dr. Jill Biden speaks to more than 1,000 students, educators, and local officials at Escambia High School in Pensacola Friday. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

The benefits will cover all students in selected schools. Escambia School District is one of two districts in the state, and 13 in the nation, to be accepted into the program this year. Five of the seven high schools in the School District – Escambia High School, Pensacola High School, Pine Forest High School, Booker T. Washington High School and West Florida High School – will participate in the College Readiness Program.

Mosley and Rutherford high schools in Bay County and Ocean Springs High School in Mississippi will also participate in the program.

“This is a proud day for Escambia County,” said Escambia School District superintendent Malcolm Thomas. “This program will allow our teachers to learn about best practices from around the country and use those strategies in their classrooms.”

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Jason Silva of the National Geographic Channel speaks on the importance of math and science to students at Escambia High School in Pensacola Friday. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

Thomas said this initiative will allow the district to improve how STEM courses are taught in Pensacola-area schools.

“Will we promote a culture that creates a college ready graduating class,” Thomas said. “Pensacola is a military city and we’re proud of that.”

In addition to the announcement, Biden was joined by special guest Jason Silva, host of National Geographic Channel’s Brain Games, for a series of scientific challenges between students from local high schools.

Pensacola area high school students participated in various riddles and STEM-related challenges posed by Silva. Members of the crowd also joined in on the challenges.

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Mayor Ashton Hayward (right) and Admiral Michael White, Chief of Naval Education and Training Command, laugh as Jason Silva of the National Geographic quizzes students at Escambia High School in Pensacola Friday. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

In 2011, Dr. Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama introduced Joining Forces, a nationwide initiative calling all Americans to rally around service members, veterans, to their families and support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities. Dr. Biden championed the expansion of the College Readiness Program to military-connected schools as part of Joining Forces. NMSI received funding from Lockheed Martin Corporation for Advanced Placement programs at schools serving military bases.

Watch the announcement and event here:

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