The University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business is partnering with Dominion Energy and Richland One and Richland Two school districts to develop a high school pipeline program. The Dominion Energy Power Forward Program provides unique opportunities for South Carolina students to enhance knowledge of and interest in business degrees and professions.
“The Moore School understands the crucial need to provide opportunities for high school students, particularly in South Carolina, so they can see themselves succeeding at the Moore School and other schools and universities,” said Deborah Hazzard, the Moore School’s associate dean of diversity and inclusion and a management clinical associate professor.
“I truly believe education is a great equalizer,” Hazzard said. “We really have to provide opportunities for people around education and help them achieve economic mobility and change their lives.”
With this program, activities and resources are made available to Richland County students as early as their freshman year, which can include lunch and learns, mentorship from Moore School faculty and staff, site visits to the Moore School and other businesses, academic competitions.
“What we’re doing here is making sure that we can align with two of our premier school districts in the state to make sure the Moore School is available to them,” said Moore School Dean Peter Brews. “We need to build the best opportunities for individuals in South Carolina — that’s one of our focuses at the Moore School. We appreciate the support in helping us create the next generation of business leaders.”
The Dominion Energy Power Forward Program will also offer participants job and college shadowing opportunities as well as service- and project-based learning projects. Plans include hosting a Dominion Energy Power Forward Diversity and Inclusion Conference that will be open to program participants and other underrepresented high school students across the state.
The program began with a launch event on Sept. 15 with Moore School, Dominion Energy, Richland One and Richland Two representatives. The goal is to serve 80 students from each district over the course of this academic year.
“Dominion Energy is supporting this program so South Carolina high school students can seriously think about the opportunities a college degree creates and see that it is attainable,” said Iris Griffin, vice president of Power Generation for Dominion Energy South Carolina.
“At Dominion Energy, the key to being successful in the long term is to have highly competent groups of employees from diverse backgrounds who appreciate a variety of perspectives,” Griffin said. “By creating this pipeline for Richland One and Richland Two graduates to attend universities, these students will be ready to one day join South Carolina’s workforce and make an impact.”
The superintendents for Richland One and Richland Two said their districts both continually discuss options and opportunities they can facilitate for students.
“It has been said that talent is equally distributed, but opportunities are not,” said Craig Witherspoon, Richland County School District One superintendent. “We strive to provide options and opportunities, so any time we can collaborate or bring entities together, that’s a great thing. We know when we provide those things, our students absolutely rise to the challenge.”
The two superintendents fully support the districts working together in partnership with Dominion Energy and the Moore School.
“It’s important to see students succeed in both school districts and in the whole state of South Carolina. It’s important for us to look for opportunities and partnerships to close opportunity gaps, particularly for marginalized communities or disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Baron R. Davis, Richland County School District Two superintendent. “Strategic partnerships like Power Forward are one of the keys to ensure we provide opportunities for our students to be the best versions of themselves.”
Among the featured speakers for Wednesday’s launch event, two are successful products of South Carolina public schools. Hazzard graduated from Lower Richland High School and Davis from C.A. Johnson High School; both high schools are part of Richland One.
Hazzard said being from Columbia and growing up as an underrepresented student, she understands the need for the new Dominion Energy program.
“I see myself in the faces of these students that are going to be part of this pipeline program,” she said. “This for me became a labor of love.”
Hazzard, whose Moore School Office of Diversity and Inclusion spearheaded the program, said they plan to expand to additional South Carolina school districts after this year’s pilot with Richland One and Richland Two.