Williston, SC - Flying drones, robotics, flight simulators, and virtual reality games... in Williston, South Carolina?
Yes! The small town boasts big numbers at its STEM Festival, thanks in part to an after school program called DIG and a man who says you have to dream it to make it happen. He's Steven Brown- and we call him our newest Giving Your Best award winner!
Steven Brown grew up in Williston and though he left more than a decade ago, for a career in Greenville, he still works to transform young people's lives in Barnwell County.
"A lot of what I'm doing I'm modeling after what I see daily in the growth of Greenville and I'm basically saying we could do exactly the same thing, just on a smaller scale."
So he founded a nonprofit organization called "DIG"- Dreams Imagination & Gift Development Program.
"I tell our kids in order to do something you first have to imagine and see it. When you face diversity you're looking at what you're seeing, so if someone puts a chair in front of you and you're going for a dollar bill on a table, you're going to move left or right. So if you have your eye on it you can get there if you can see it first."
Recently named The Black Engineer of the Year at a ceremony in Washington DC, Brown is changing young lives in rural South Carolina by giving disadvantaged kids a reason to think big through the STEM festival.
"I actually got the idea from Imagine Upstate. I brought a group of mentees to the festival and I was like, 'I can't take busloads and busloads of kids to Greenville' so I came up with this crazy idea- my board thought I was crazy- we're gonna have the same festival in Williston to show that rural communities can do the same thing these larger cities are doing. This year it's just been growing and we've doubled exhibitors this year."
Debra Young says she nominated Steven for the award because so many in Williston are grateful that he brought the DIG program and STEM festival -and its 2500 participants- "back home."
"He moved away- that's what really go to me. He moved away and he still wanted to come back and give to the community so that's what really excited me about the things he did."
As Debra says, kids who were never interested in learning about Technology, Science or Math are now talking about becoming Engineers --not Rappers!
Jennie: He seems to be saying if you can dream it, you can do it.
Debra: "Exactly! Those are his words and what he believes in, for the children that otherwise wouldn't get to be doing some of the things they're doing because of living in small towns like we are in."
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