STEM Center seeking donations

Published 7:58 pm Tuesday, May 25, 2021

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Pandemic-related learning issues have been widespread among students, including many participating in several programs sponsored by the Inner Banks STEM Center at the Washington Warren Airport. When that became apparent to STEM Center director Alvin Powell, he set up a tutoring program.

“(It was) in direct response to the need identified last December and January,” Powell said. “There was an extraordinarily high number of students having trouble with on-line math, a critical community need.”

There was no budget for the program at the time, but Powell “did what I had to do for my STEM kids and decided to work out the budget issue later.”

Powell supervised the program while also managing the STEM Center’s course offerings in boating, drone technology, aeronautics, and other topics typical for the center, which offers opportunities to prepare for careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Powell said, this week, that “later” has just arrived. The new school year is about to start and tutoring has ended for now. He also just got news of a solution for the program’s approximate $4,000 price tag for the virtual sessions by six tutors – three of whom helped 15 students at S.W. Snowden Elementary School, and another three assigned to about a dozen students “all over Beaufort County.”

Powell has been offered up to $2,000 in matching funds from the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation, a charitable foundation created in 1994 and based at the Grady White Boat Company in Greenville.

“This foundation has provided us financial support for several years,” Powell said. “They’ve been very involved in our youth-based STEM program, especially given that we have had a boating camp since 2015. I notified them that we’d started a tutoring program and asked if there was any funding available to help. They said yes.”

While there is no deadline for donations from the public, Powell said sooner is better than later, in terms of replenishing operational costs for the program. Most of the budget was earmarked for payments to the six tutors, who were recruited from the ECU School of Engineering, Beaufort County Community College, and the Beaufort County High School Early College Program.

Powell has been director of the STEM Center since he founded it in 2012 and, since then, has focused on reaching at-risk and under-represented middle and high school youth to help prepare them for 21st century STEM-related employment opportunities. Anyone interested in participating in the foundation’s tuition challenge – or learning more about the center – may contact Powell by calling 252-495-0029.