Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce and Blowing Rock School Cooperative Initiatives

The Blowing Rock Chamber has had an ongoing relationship with Blowing Rock School for many years. Our town is extremely fortunate to have a school of such caliber here, and the Chamber believes that our continuing efforts to assist the school in maintaining its leadership and excellence will only improve the economic viability of our community.

The educational excellence of Blowing Rock School is also, reputedly, attracting younger couples with children to our community. Having younger year-round residents is certainly a benefit to all stakeholders in our Town. 

The following is an update of our continuing initiatives with the School, and we only expect our efforts to expand and improve with time.

3D Printer and CAD Drawings - Three years ago we provided support to the school with the acquisition of a 3D printer which was funded by the generosity of the Kennedy-Herterich Foundation. Through the leadership of Jim McDowell at the Chamber ,we obtained the support of Patrick Sukow, Principal, Robert Smith, teacher, and Michael Rall of the School of Design at App State to begin a 3D Print Club for 8th graders. In the first year of competition, the “GOATS 3D Print Club” won 2nd place in the NC Center for Engineering Technologies 3D Print Competition, a regional competition. In the second year, they came in 1st place, and this victory included high school competitors. Their success continues as they won a new printer with this victory, which is helping expand the 3D capabilities and club capacity at the school.

NC School of Science and Math (NCSSM) Summer Accelerator Program - This STEM program began in 2017 with the support of the Blowing Rock Community Foundation and some Chamber members. NCSSM also provided a scholarship to assist. Prior to 2017, no Watauga County students had participated. Two students from Blowing Rock and three others from the county participated in 2017, and in 2018, we had seven from BRS and 11 others from Watauga County participate. The Foundation has increased their support for 2019. The students contribute a portion of the cost and are required to make a presentation to the Chamber upon completion of the program. We are excited to continue to encourage students in the pursuit of STEM studies.

Sentio Program -  Sentio is Latin for perceive, feel experience, think, realize, see and understand.
In 2018, we met with Patrick Sukow and Dr. Scott Elliott, Superintendent of Watauga County Schools, to explore additional ways that the Chamber could assist the school. At Principal Sukow’s suggestion, we developed a program to expose students to business, to help middle school students see opportunities that exist in the workplace and the skills needed for those jobs. We bring businesses into Blowing Rock School for the 6th graders and take the 7th graders to the businesses for field trips.  We are extremely appreciative of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and Blue Ridge Energy for their support. We are searching for more businesses to work with us to expand and enrich these experiences. Dr. Elliott is evaluating the program to determine if it can be expanded throughout the county.

Entrepreneurship Class - Zak Ammar, a local entrepreneur and CEO and Founder of Vixster, who is also a member of the Chamber's Executive Committee, initiated and is conducting the first Entrepreneurship Class at Blowing Rock School during the 2018-2019 school year. Erich Schlenker, Managing Director at the Center for Entrepreneurship at App State, has been supporting and teaming with Zak. Principal Sukow and teacher Rob Smith have been extremely supportive of this endeavor. The plan is for this to be an ongoing program with the school. 

Financial Literacy - This is a much needed knowledge base and service throughout the High Country. The Chamber, in cooperation with BB&T and a provider, ERERFI, is planning to pilot a Financial Literacy Program at Blowing Rock School this year as part of the Entrepreneurship Class.  This pilot will provide the school system and the Chamber the opportunity to determine how to proceed. We are working with Mr. Sukow, Dr. Elliott and the Boone Chamber to explore ways to make this a county-wide program.

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