When General Electric controls engineer Steven Brown got the news that an after-school and camp in Williston, South Carolina had received a $150,000 grant, it was a triple celebration.
“The grant highlights the fact that Dreams, Imagination, and Gifts (DIG) will continue to be a key supporter of science, technology, engineering, the Arts, and math education in the Central Savannah River Area,” Brown said. “ We are building partnerships with other districts to expand our program in those communities.”
The South Carolina Department of Education selected the DIG program in a federally-funded competition.
DIG’s after-school program in Williston, a railroad town with about 3,000 people, runs Monday through Friday. The curriculum is focused on enriching student experiences in science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and the Arts. Typical activities include tutoring, homework assistance, and recreation.
The state education award was a double treat.
It not only supported services through the 2017/18 school year, the grant continued into the 2020/21 school year.
Last fall, Brown also got news that he had been nominated for the Black Engineer of the Year Award for Community Service, which he received this February at the 2018 BEYA STEM Conference.
As an engineer with GE, Brown serves on the industrial Internet front lines. He graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.
“I was part of my school’s Gifted and Talented program, and through that, I got to visit a BMW plant,” he said.
That one trip forever changed Brown’s life.
“Now imagine if every child in rural communities got that same exposure,” he said.“Big dreams can be achieved in small places.”
Born and raised in rural Carolina, Brown has always seen potential in countryside places.
“Youth in these areas possess a natural gift of problem-solving, which is used in STEM careers,” he said. “Such abilities are needed to excel in communities with high poverty and limited resources.”
Brown founded the Dreams, Imagination, and Gifts (DIG) organization in 2013.
According to DIG, 19 percent of public school children across America are enrolled in rural schools, where there is little or no funding for after-school and summer programs.
“Rural community youth face the same challenges as any other adolescent, but studies show that the challenges of rural communities are sometimes greater than those of large cities and metro areas,” Brown said.
DIG is one of the first organizations to roll out STEM enrichment, after-school, summer, and virtual mentoring in South Carolina.
They also founded the DIG STEM Festival to serve rural areas.
In 2016, the STEM fiesta attracted over 2,000 people from counties in Georgia and South Carolina, and more than twenty exhibitors such as Boeing had their technology wares on display. The festival provides an opportunity for outdoor exchange between children, teenagers, adults, and STEM professionals.