HDR Foundation Grant: Governor's School for Science and Math

Governor's School for Science and Math

HDR Foundation helps spread STEM education across South Carolina

The South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Math is home to 277 high school students. Literally. The publicly funded residential school is open to academically gifted juniors and seniors from across the state.  

Not long ago, Lee Tupper, highway EIT in HDR's Columbia, South Carolina, office, was one of those students. Now, he's the employee sponsor for a 2015 HDR Foundation large grant, classified as more than $15,000, that has been awarded to his alma mater's foundation. Part of the mission of the GSSM Foundation is developing, funding and operating STEM-based educational outreach programs across South Carolina.  

"I went through the school itself," said Tupper, a 2005 GSSM graduate. "Going from my regular high school to GSSM was a big adjustment and a challenge, and not just academically. It also helps students transfer to a university setting."

When Tupper attended the Governor's School for Science and Math, all students lived on the Hartsville campus. That was the norm for its then-160 students. But things have changed since then, and the HDR Foundation is part of the reason why. GSSM recently launched an online education program called Accelerate in an effort to bring specialized STEM education to more students across South Carolina.

The HDR Foundation grant will be dedicated to the Accelerate engineering program, which, unlike the residential curriculum, also includes high school sophomores. 

"Instead of requiring students to live on the Hartsville campus, it's an online-based program," Tupper said. "It's the same idea, advanced classes and highly qualified professors, but they are able to go through the program online from the high school they attend currently. As part of the program, they have summer projects on campus and several weekends where they meet as a group on campus to participate in engineering projects."

Those summer programs and weekend camps will be possible in part because of the HDR Foundation grant. Tupper has volunteered in numerous ways at the GSSM Foundation, including working with professors to develop transportation focused engineering projects, talking to prospective students and their parents, and coordinating engineers from the industry to participate in the programs. 

"I am most excited about this grant because Accelerate provides an incredible opportunity for students," Tupper said. "It will give students the opportunity to maximize their education in a challenging academic environment that some of their current high schools cannot provide. Accelerate will help spread the top-level educational opportunity that the Governor's School provides to students all over South Carolina, and it also advances STEM education in the state, which is a major need."

And it has an added bonus, too.

"Once you graduate from the Accelerate program, you can go to any of the in-state engineering schools and skip your freshman year of college."

Successful completion of Accelerate can result in as many as 43 semester hours of college credit, according to the school website, which can save Accelerate students more than $12,000 in college tuition costs.  

The HDR Foundation grant will help the program by funding Base Camps, which get sophomore students familiar with engineering before starting the Accelerate program; Summer Experiences, which are hands-on learning opportunities for the students; Saturday Experiences, which include field trips to local engineering colleges; books; IT and equipment; and career development services like job fairs and internships.

"Accelerate absolutely develops an interest in the engineering field at the high school level and provides a high school STEM education second to none," Tupper said. "It also prepares high school students to take advantage of their time in college and graduate better prepared for the engineering industry, which benefits employers like HDR."

About the HDR Foundation

The HDR Foundation was founded in 2012 and has provided more than half a million dollars in grants to local organizations—fueled by donations from HDR employees. The foundation provides grants to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, federally recognized tribal governments, and to political subdivisions, such as school districts or libraries. Our giving is targeted to the communities in which our employees live and work, focusing on the U.S. or organizations that support global initiatives. Grant recipients are also required to align with HDR's areas of focus, which include education, healthcare and healthy communities, and healthy environments.