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Blowing Rock Chamber, Community Foundation collaborate in funding STEM scholarships for Blowing Rock students

By Taylor Welsh and David Rogers. November 1, 2017. BLOWING ROCK, NC — If Blowing Rock is ever going to have a truly vibrant “year-round” economy, the business community needs to do more to diversify its employment base beyond the tourism and the hospitality industries.  That’s the view of Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce leaders — and in collaboration with the Blowing Rock Community Foundation they are taking steps to address that very challenge with long-term initiatives.

On Tuesday, representatives of both organizations were on hand in front of Blowing Rock School to present a check for $4,000 aimed at funding scholarships for rising 7th and 8th grade students to attend week-long, summer accelerator camps hosted by the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.

“We export too much of our talent off of this mountain,” Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Charles Hardin observed to Blowing Rock News. “They go off to school and don’t come back, so we hope that this program helps foster interest in not only the future of entrepreneurship and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields, but that they want to come back to use what they learned and bring it back to the Blowing Rock community.”

When we are able to challenge kids, you never know where it will take them.

Jim McDowell is a former technology professional serving as the chairman of the entrepreneurship sub-committee for Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Committee. Interviewed by Blowing Rock News at the presentation, McDowell explained that his committee became aware of the accelerator program in the latter part of the past school year.

“Given the short amount of time to organize ourselves for fundraising,” McDowell admitted, “we were only able to send two students to the program last summer. It costs about $1,500 per student per week.  Because last summer’s students came back with such heightened enthusiasm to learn more about these subjects, it became our top priority to expose more students to this educational opportunity in hopes that one day these potentially future entrepreneurs will come back to Blowing Rock and help further develop and benefit our local economy and community.”

McDowell explained that his group applied for a grant from the Blowing Rock Community Foundation, whose board member Sandy Miller was on hand Tuesday to represent the non-profit organization whose mission is to provide college scholarships to deserving students and to fund grants to non-profit causes impacting the area.

Miller told Blowing Rock News, “This perfectly fit our mission. It was an easy decision for us to fund this very worthwhile initiative. [The Blowing Rock Community Foundation] feels that children are very special and we will do anything to contribute to their academic endeavors.”

Blowing Rock School Principal Patrick Sukow was effusive in his praise of how the school receives support from the Blowing Rock community, from businesses as well as from residents, and how important it is for students, faculty and staff.

We export too much of our talent off of this mountain.

“To be able to give these students an opportunity that they either were not aware of previously or cannot financially afford means the world to us,” said a smiling Sukow as he was being interviewed by Blowing Rock News. “It gives our students an opportunity to see themselves in a different light. When we are able to challenge kids, you never know where they are going to go.”

Sukow also advanced how important these students’ experiences are once they return to school after the summer accelerator program.

“When you see kids excited about anything, it’s infectious school-wide,” he noted, “and when they are excited about education and academics, what more can we ask for? That brings even more excitement to the student body and to the faculty.  When you have a combination of those two things and the support of your community, too, you can’t beat it.”

On Nov. 14, an overview of the accelerator program and summer classes will be presented at the Blowing Rock School auditorium. Jan Hill, director of the accelerator classes, and Henry Quo, a member of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics Board of Advisors will be present to answer any questions pertaining to the program and provide an overview for all parents and students in K-8 schools within the Watauga School System. These scholarships for the program are available for rising 7th and 8th grade students at Blowing Rock School. The overview presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m.

McDowell said the students will be asked to keep a journal and take notes throughout the program so that when they return, they can conduct a presentation in front of is economic development committee about their experiences.

“We are excited that we will be able to send as many as five students this year,” McDowell said. “We can’t thank Sandy and the Blowing Rock Community Foundation enough for providing this opportunity for these students.”


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