Four County EMC gives local educator opportunity to explore careers in energy

Four County Electric Membership Corporation is giving one local teacher the opportunity to step out of the classroom into an internship role exploring the world of energy with the cooperative.

Recently, the Burgaw-based electric cooperative announced they have selected Garrick Purdie, a second-year science teacher at Duplin Early College High School, as their 2024-25 Kenan Fellow. The Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership at N.C. State University offers year-long professional development along with industry immersion internships that connect K-12 educators with experiences within local industries, community organizations and higher education institutions.

During the three-week STEM internship with Four County EMC, Purdie will gain firsthand knowledge into regional career pathways for his students and relevant workforce skills. In turn, he will translate his experiences with the cooperative into exciting lessons and resources that bridge the gap between the classroom and the workforce in his community.

“Mr. Purdie was a great candidate to work with Four County EMC because of his dedication to advancing STEM education and his innovative teaching methods,” said Molly Giffin, a communications specialist at Four County EMC. “His enthusiasm for learning and his desire to incorporate real-world experiences into his classroom make him an ideal fit for engaging with Four County EMC.”

While becoming a teacher was a recent career change for Purdie, he’s no stranger to working in the energy sector.

Giving back to next generation

It wasn’t until he was almost 50 years old that Purdie took up the teaching reins, choosing to make an impact on the future of his community through education. While he says some people might consider that a late transition, he believes that everyone is a “lifelong learner,” searching for growth and new opportunities.

“You’re never too old to try new things, you’re never too old to try a new job or career,” said Purdie. “I tell my students that I wanted to be the change that I hope to see in education. This opportunity with Four County EMC is another chapter in my story that I can use to relate to them and hopefully inspire them.”

Purdie says through his lessons and classes he has been able to serve a population of students that can sometimes be told they can’t do certain things or achieve certain goals. Instead, he uses an approach that encourages them to expand their opportunities through research and trial.

The Kenan Fellowship with Four County EMC is another chance for him to bring new lessons and experiences into his classroom. He says it’s also an experience to get back to his roots.

When Purdie was 18, he had an internship with Carolina Power and Light, which is now part of Duke Energy. He was placed at a generation plant in Lumberton, NC where he said he observed all parts of electric generation. In the second year of his internship, Purdie says he worked in Raleigh, helping with seismic verification.

While his introduction to the energy industry was more than 30 years ago, Purdie says he’s excited to see the changes that have taken place.

“I’m hoping to reach kids in not only my class, but even the kids in my school that I don’t normally interact with on a day-to-day basis,” said Purdie. “I can show them this really cool thing that I saw or this project that I helped with, and hopefully inspire them to do their own research or project.”

“I’m well positioned being placed with Four County to see those changes, with a corporation that is actually handling energy generation and how that generation is distributed to their members,” said Purdie. “I’m looking forward to learning how they continue to innovate and find ways to serve our community.”

Bringing it back to the classroom

While Purdie says he is excited to step into a learning role with his local cooperative, he’s especially enthusiastic to take what he learns and apply it in his STEM classes and clubs. That’s what drew him to applying to be a Kenan Fellow in just his second year of teaching.

Four County EMC says they’re looking forward to welcoming back another Kenan Fellow this summer, and sharing the work they are doing to power their communities.

“During his time with Four County, Mr. Purdie will have the opportunity to engage in various activities, such as shadowing professionals in different departments, participating in hands-on projects and touring plants related to energy production, distribution and conservation,” said Giffin. “By connecting classroom learning with real-world applications, we hope to foster a greater interest and understanding of energy-related topics among his students.”