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Mapping out the future

It’s all mapped out; or at least that’s what some Jasper County High School, in US, students plan to work on this summer during a paid internship program that teaches them GIS.

The mapping technology will allow students to be community ambassadors and promote smart growth in Jasper County, said Heather Landry, GIS instructor and director of Friends of the Rivers.

“Jasper County is undergoing tremendous pressures,” she said. Residents there are well aware of surrounding communities and their exploding growth, and “it’s only natural to think Jasper County is next,” Landry said. Jasper County Board of Education members were on board with that thinking and unanimously voted earlier this week to partner with the Lowcountry Institute and Friends of the Rivers to get students involved in the Natural Resource Academy. The county’s Planning Commission voted to do the same recently.

It’s advantageous for local students to get involved with Jasper County’s future landscape because “they know their community better than we do,” Landry said.

GIS technology has great potential to problem-solving, according to the Lowcountry Institute. Issues on where to draw legislative district boundaries, project the number of students in 10 years and identify pockets of endangered environments can be solved with the help of mapping technology.

“They’ll be tasked to map this information and communicate those issues with the county’s stakeholders,” Landry said.

The students selected for the GIS internship will have an opportunity to extend their knowledge by taking an environmental technology class at school in the fall. The program will focus on two identified educational priorities, community issues and career development, said the environment technology teacher.

Students will be expected to be self-motivators who can work independently and can get a research project done, said Lowcountry Institute Executive Director Chris Marsh earlier this week at a Jasper County school board meeting. They will also be expected to interact and work with the county’s planning commission.

If this summer’s program is successful, there are plans to expand it to other schools in Beaufort, Hampton and Colleton counties.