Timberland High School junior Frank New competes on his school's robotics team and takes an electronics course where he learns how to troubleshoot problematic machinery.
Still, New knows his rural school needs even more resources to better prepare students for jobs in engineering and other science-related fields.
New celebrated with his Timberland classmates and teachers as news of a $10,000 donation from BP America recently spread throughout the school. The funds will be used to boost the school's math and science classes and eventually to start a pre-engineering curriculum that will provide students with detailed instruction.
A corporate-giving fund called Fabric of America lets BP employees request a company donation for any project they choose. The 200 employees at BP's Cooper River plant decided to ask for corporate support for four local schools. The result: a $65,000 donation divided among four Lowcountry schools with ties to the Cooper River plant in the Cainhoy/Huger area.
Berkeley County's Hanahan High and Cainhoy Elementary/Middle and Charleston County's Wando High School also received funds. All the schools are near the BP plant or are attended by students from the Cainhoy/Huger area, said Darleen Pope, the plant's human resources manager.
"We want to help ensure our kids are prepared and have a foundation of skills that will be vital to the community," Pope said.
BP serves as a business partner at Cainhoy Elementary/Middle, and 30 employees sponsored a science night earlier this year at the school. Cainhoy Assistant Principal Arthur Holmes said the $10,000 grant will invigorate science teachers and bring a science focus to the school.
The school plans to start a science club, buy more library books related to science and purchase updated lab equipment, he said.
At Timberland, school officials hope more students will enroll in honors and Advanced Placement science courses. Assistant Principal Julie Rogers said students at the St. Stephen school already are encouraged by an apprenticeship program that could offer them a chance to work at the BP plant.
"We are located so far from civilization," she said. "We need to show our students that these kind of job opportunities do exist. When officials from BP talk about how wide-open the field of engineering is, it can really motivate our students."
New, who aspires to become an engineer, said he's already discussed the prospect of working at BP with his friends on the robotics team. He said he hopes BP officials will be impressed if he enrolls in rigorous upper-level math and science classes created at the school with the grant money.
"The name of Timberland is now on their minds, so we hope that will lead to an opportunity to work for them," New said.