Clemson and SC State Partner to Bring STEM Education to After-school Programs in Rural South Carolina

Natallia Sianko, Boyd Owens and Mark Small (left to right) are the architects of a program that will bring STEM education to at-risk youth in South Carolina.
Image Credit: Clemson University

SC State University, in partnership with Clemson University, has received a five-year, $1.28 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum in after-school programs in Allendale, Anderson and Jasper counties beginning this fall.

At-risk students from these rural South Carolina communities will now have access to STEM programming in their after-school programs.

“The land-grant focused missions of both SC State and Clemson, make this partnership a historic collaboration that solves a problem that has for years, limited the access of children in rural communities to critical STEM disciplines,” said SC State President James Clark. “This grant will allow us to implement programming that prepares these students for academic success throughout their elementary, middle and high school years.”

Students in grades 3 through 8 will be taught the STEM curriculum two times per week during one-hour long sessions throughout the academic year. They will also take part in technology camp during the summer months, designed for retaining critical STEM models.

Faculty and staff from SC State and Clemson will work together to implement the curriculum. The program will also engage community partners who will play an important role in executing the project. Program organizers believe it is important to involve community partners to ensure long-term sustainability of the program. Integrating technology components into the project will also make it impactful for the long haul.

Historically, the communities in which the STEM programs will be implemented have had some of the highest poverty and illiteracy rates in the state.

“It is important that we do all we can to make certain the project is sustainable. This will allow it to continually and dynamically improve after-school programs well into the future,” said Boyd Owens, senior extension director of the SC State 1890 Extension Program. “We can build upon this collaboration to more effectively serve youth throughout the state.”

Owens, along with Clemson professor, Natallia Sianko, and Mark Small, Clemson youth, family and community studies department chair, engineered the program and agree that it is perfectly aligned with the strategic goals of both universities.

“This program fits with Clemson’s land-grant mission to build resilience in people and communities,” Sianko said.

“SC State and Clemson University have a history of public service to the residents of South Carolina to include under-served communities, and this program seeks to carry on that tradition,” said Owens.

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