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Executives pose with ceremonial check
L to R: Cheryl Lewis, Octavia Williams-Blake, Crishell Johnson, Claire Gibbons, & Charlie Plant. 2nd row: Jernasia Gaskins, Emily Lucero, Mr. Lee, Chasity Gerald, & Matthew Peake.

FLORENCE, SC – December 11, 2023 – Big Picture Learning (BPL), has been awarded a $25,000 grant from Power:Ed, the philanthropy of SC Student Loan Corporation, to support the creation of a hospital industrial maintenance youth apprenticeship program in the Pee Dee region. The funds will be used to support scholarships for participants and cover the costs of their tools and work clothes.

BPL will provide all necessary logistical support to McLeod Health, (the host venue), and local youth, educators, and businesses through its Harbor Freight Fellows Initiative (HFFI). McLeod and HFFI will collaborate to select the students needed for this industrial experience.

HFFI is a partnership between BPL and the Harbor Freight Tool company’s Tools for Schools program. The goal is to increase support and investment in skilled trades education through apprenticing experiences for youth.

“The Harbor Freight Fellows Initiative is committed to connecting youth interested in skill trades pathways with the assistance of a skilled trades mentor,” shared Crishell Johnson, Regional Coordinator for Big Picture Learning’s HFFI Initiative. “As a South Carolina native myself, I couldn’t be more excited to bear witness to this important partnership to open up new career pathways for the young people of this region.”

HFFI has been successfully supporting skilled trades apprenticing experiences for South Carolina youth for over five years. This project will create a model for cost sharing partnerships with industry that can significantly increase apprenticing opportunities for youth.

This project is seen as a pilot and a proof of concept to develop a long-standing partnership with McLeod Health and other hospitals regionally. Additionally, it will serve as a catalyst to develop similar opportunities for youth statewide in other industries involving the skilled trades - construction, manufacturing, aviation, maritime, transportation, etc. The goal is for industries that employ the trades to develop in-house, self-funded apprenticing programs.
The project will focus on the soft and hard skills needed for the workplace, increased knowledge of the tools, procedures, and safety practices in the health care industrial maintenance environment, the acquisition of necessary certifications (OSHA), and exposure to, and engagement with a professional environment and the communication skills needed with both staff and the public. The goals are to secure potential employment for participating youth and to build a pipeline of skilled workers benefiting the larger Pee Dee community.

“We appreciate community partnership opportunities such as this to allow students to gain exposure to the vast career opportunities at McLeod Health” said Charity Gerald, Director, Recruiting & Workforce Development. “Our goal is to use a people-first approach for placing individual on a career path for success.”

“We are so excited about the transformative impact this workforce development pilot program could have in the Pee Dee and for rural communities across South Carolina,” said Power:Ed Executive Director Claire Gibbons. “It addresses the critical shortage of needed industrial maintenance technicians for hospitals as well as advanced manufacturers, and offers a pathway to prosperity for SC’s rural youth.

In FY2023-24 Power:Ed will award $1,000,000 in grants to South Carolina education and career readiness nonprofit organizations. In this second quarter, Power:Ed has awarded eight grants (including this grant to BPL), totaling $287,000. Grants are administered quarterly, and the next grant funding deadline is January 1, 2024.

About Big Picture Learning (BPL)
BPL has been at the work of evolving education to be more equitable and student-centered for over 25 years. It joins and leads local and national conversations, as well as partners with others whose collective efforts will influence the future of learning.

Harbor Freight Fellows Initiative (HFFI)
HFFI is an initiative of Big Picture Learning, in partnership with the Harbor Freight Tool company's Tools for Schools program. It supports youth for whom the trades are the appropriate and chosen post-secondary path to a fulfilling life as a professional and community member – especially those who have been historically marginalized in the trades through race, ethnicity, or gender bias.

McLeod Health
Founded in 1906, McLeod Health is a locally owned and managed, not for profit organization which includes seven hospitals: McLeod Regional Medical Center, McLeod Health Dillon, McLeod Health Loris, McLeod Health Seacoast, McLeod Health Cheraw, McLeod Health Clarendon and McLeod Behavioral Health, and more than 90 physician practices throughout its 18-county service area.

About Power:Ed
Founded in 2019, Power:Ed, the philanthropy of SC Student Loan is dedicated to creating opportunities for South Carolina’s youth and adults by supporting low-income, minority, and first-generation students; improving access to college and degree completion; and creating pathways to quality workforce opportunities. Organizations serving middle school through post-college talent who are interested in applying for a grant or partnering with Power:Ed, should visit

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