From left: Ryan Mehlem, Natalia Nortz and Mercy Crapps

From left: Ryan Mehlem, Natalia Nortz and Mercy Crapps

Three students from the Clemson University Honors College have each earned a $1,000 cash prize in the Pay it Forward competition sponsored by South Carolina’s electric cooperatives. The competition challenges students to propose solutions to pressing social and economic problems in the state’s rural areas. 

Ryan Mehlem of Greenville, Natalia Nortz of Fort Mill and Mercy Crapps of Tallahassee, Florida, won for their plan to bring STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education to students in rural parts of South Carolina. The group’s proposal, Mobile STEM Academy, aims to provide resources, volunteer support and community outreach to inspire rural students to pursue STEM careers. Funding strategies involve seeking grants from various charitable organizations, with a focus on sustainability and scalability.

Dr. Jeff Fine, professor of political science and senior associate dean of the Clemson University Honors College, advised the winning students on their project. For his work, Dr. Fine receives $500.

“Since we started the Pay it Forward program, we’ve seen some incredible ideas and creative solutions from the college students,” said Mike Couick, president and CEO of The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina. “By highlighting these solutions to rural problems, we hope to inspire the students to take the next step and put their plans into action.”

This is the third year for the Pay it Forward program, which is open to students at Clemson University, South Carolina State University and the University of South Carolina.

To view the group’s winning proposal, click here.
To view their winning video, click here.