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STEM center awarded $25K from Duke Energy Foundation

Christmas has arrived early for Alvin Powell, president of the Inner Banks STEM Center.

Powell learned this week that a grant from the Duke Energy Foundation for $25,000 has been awarded to the center, which is located on the grounds of the Washington-Warren Airfield. The 8-year-old resource for students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is the only Beaufort County recipient of this grant, awarded to 40 applicants statewide as part of a $1 million outreach to nonprofits with missions that include commitment to social justice and racial equity.

Powell said the grant gives his group the opportunity to “develop more ways to address racial equity and social justice, while incorporating workshops on positive life skills, diversity, racial tolerance and self-esteem.”

He described the center’s drone program as an example of a stealth mechanism to bring kids together and work in teams with people who don’t look like them, sound like them or share the same values.

“It is built to demonstrate how education, not violence, is the way to improve their quality of life. We expose students to careers and opportunities in science and technology, and encourage them to dream about these careers — irrespective of their race, gender or socioeconomic status. They learn how to respect or erase some of those differences,” Powell said.

Powell said the Duke grant award is perfectly timed.

“We’ve received two, 3-year student science and enrichment program grants from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund in Raleigh, and we’re in the last year of that second grant. Through that, we’ve been able to change the format of our after-school and summer programs by integrating STEM, positive life skills and health, diet and nutrition into a comprehensive ‘whole person’ concept for our students,” Powell said. “We are not a new kid on this block, and the Duke grant will enable us to focus even more precision and love on our kids with socioeconomic need and as-yet unseen opportunities.”

Some of that $25,000 is tagged for the center’s website. Powell said visitors to ibxstem.org will find more content about social justice and related issues, including a link to a 55-minute teleconference with seven guests who “answered questions in a non-inflammatory manner that a parent or student could listen to and, as a result, realize that the United States may be going through a rough patch now, but things will improve.”

He said additional teleconferences will appear soon. Other possibilities being considered by the board of directors include short podcasts, a virtual town hall and “in-person incentives to meet with local community leaders.”

Powell reacted with an enthusiastic “Definitely, yes” when asked if he planned on reapplying for the grant which, according to a Duke Energy statement, was created as “an annual social justice and racial equity cycle for at least three years.”

He said that he and his board would love more grants, as well as funds from local and county governments, which he said are “pivotal for our future.”

“We are looking for sustainability for our programs, to serve our kids,” Powell said.