Archived Story

STEM begins growing roots

Published 5:16pm Tuesday, October 22, 2013

PotashCorp-Aurora is investing in new multi-county STEM program, along with five other area organizations.

Beaufort County’s largest employer also continues to support an educational facility operated by the Boy Scouts.

The STEM program is a partnership between the Boy Scouts and area United Way chapters.

Together, the six investors combined are committing more than $150,000 to launch the new science, technology, engineering and math program for 320 minority and low-income youth. The new program will have chapters in Beaufort, Pitt, Craven, Pamlico and Wilson counties within the next three months.

The other investors are United Way of Pitt County, Boy Scouts of America (southern region), United Way of Wilson County, Grady White Boats (Greenville) and the little bank (with headquarters in Kinston). The new program was announced last week in Greenville.

Chapters will be located in existing organizations to make the program accessible to those without transportation, according to those familiar with the program. Additional chapters in eastern North Carolina will be organized in the communities of the ten largest concentrations of low-income and minority youth as more investors are identified.

Gwangi Shipp, multicultural outreach director for the East Carolina Council of Boy Scouts of American, talked about the importance of the new STEM program.

“We live in a time of great opportunity and innovation, especially with how rapidly our technology is moving. Unfortunately, our country is falling behind in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Shipp wrote in an email. “Many educators are encouraging students to enter into STEM-related fields. We want to make sure that we give our multicultural and low-income youth the opportunity to develop the critical-thinking skills and foster a desire for learning so that they can compete in the world market. Our program is unique because we have combined those STEM skills into one program and into fun scouting activities (i.e., exposing them to the great outdoors.) The mission of Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.”

Some STEM-related activities will take place at PotashCorp ECO Lodge on the south side of the Pamlico River, which was made possible by a grant from Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (parent company of PotashCorp-Aurora). ECO Lodge is an environmental education center. It is located at Camp Boddie, part of the East Carolina Scout Reservation near Blounts Creek.

Recently, PotashCorp-Aurora donated $50,000 to fund the initial hiring of a director for ECO Lodge. The director will lead several STEM initiatives at the facility, according to Ray McKeithan, manager of governmental/public affairs for PotashCorp-Aurora. Among other duties, the new director will help meet core curriculum requirements for in-school and STEM minority outreach units.
Additionally, PotashCorp-Aurora will hold a charity golf tournament next spring, with all proceeds to support the STEM program.
“We are excited to be working with Gwangi Shipp in his new capacity. He has the enthusiasm and vision to successfully reach an under-served portion of our community,” McKeithan wrote in an email. “The values, lessons and mission of the Boy Scouts will aid talented, hard-working youth toward careers that are important for the country, and hold enormous potential for career growth.
“Because the PotashCorp ECO Lodge will serve as an educational resource, we feel this partnership will have a significant impact in helping at-risk youth and make science education available year-round.”

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