$1.58 million grant awarded to BridgeValley for STEM education program partnering with Kanawha County Schools

Students at two local high schools and BridgeValley Community & Technical College today learned new doors are open to them that they may never have considered. Thanks to a $1.58 million grant from the American Electric Power Foundation, thousands of high school students in Kanawha County will be able to explore careers in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – and earn college credits while still in high school.

Through the grant, BridgeValley will work with Nitro High School and Riverside High School, as well as their feeder middle schools, to implement the Credits CountSM program. Credits Count is the signature program of the AEP Foundation. With it, high school and middle school students are introduced to STEM career fields. The program also helps students close learning gaps so they are ready to study college-level courses while still in high school. The 5-year program is expected to reach approximately 2,200 students.

“BridgeValley’s vision for Credits Count focuses on students who are not necessarily the highest performing students, but are good students who may have never considered a STEM-based career,” said Dr. Eunice Bellinger, BridgeValley president. “A long-term goal for Credits Count is to increase the skilled workforce of tomorrow to help spur economic growth in West Virginia.”

By high school graduation, students will have earned credits that count toward a certificate in a STEM-related career or a college degree in fields that include advanced manufacturing and computer and information technology. These students who graduate from BridgeValley may enter careers such as IT Systems Analyst, earning annual salaries of $75,000-$80,000, or Electro-Mechanical Technician, earning salaries of $45,000-$50,000. Students may also continue their education and save thousands of dollars over a traditional path to a four-year degree.

“This grant will enable our students to graduate from high school with 12 or more college credits through dual credit classes from BridgeValley, encouraging students to explore STEM-related fields of study,” said Dr. Ron Duerring, Kanawha County Schools superintendent. “We are excited for our students to discover the possibilities related to STEM fields by introducing labs and curriculum we could not afford without this fantastic gift from the AEP Foundation. Most important, the AEP Foundation’s investment will have huge returns for our graduates and communities alike.”

“The Credits Count grant is the largest gift that the AEP Foundation has ever made in West Virginia,” said Chris Beam, Appalachian Power president and chief operating officer. “This gift will help students become the problem solvers for our society and our businesses in the future.”

The two participating high schools, Nitro and Riverside, were selected because their students will particularly benefit from Credits Count programming. Both currently lack access to quality STEM-based programming.

“This program is tailor-made to reach those students who are solid students, but haven’t been targeted for special opportunities before. They’re the ones who sometimes slip through the cracks and may not have even considered college,” said Jason Redman, Nitro High School principal.

Earning some college credit before graduating high school increases the chance that students will complete a college program by two and a half times, according to the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning.

“Riverside students face an additional obstacle in that 50 percent of our college-going graduates are first generation college attendees,” said Jane Kennedy, Riverside High School principal. “This program gives them a leg up in overcoming that obstacle.”

The major components of the Credits Count program include:

  • STEM Experiences ? expanding awareness at an early age of possible STEM careers through middle and high school exploration experiences;
  • College Course Readiness Assessments ? identifying gaps in writing, reading and math that may require tutoring;
  • Summer Bridge Programs ? providing developmental support in English and math and improving skills prior to students’ participation in dual enrollment programs;
  • Dual Enrollment College Classes ? allowing students to graduate high school with at least 12 college credits toward an associate degree and a skill set certificate;
  • Active Advising ? providing a program adviser to work with students to continuously monitor and address educational barriers, college readiness and student performance; and
  • Scholarships ? providing some scholarships for participating students to attend BridgeValley after high school graduation.

BridgeValley’s program is the AEP Foundation’s seventh Credits Count program. Others include Columbus State Community College in Ohio, Bossier Parish Community College in Louisiana, Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma, Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, Ashland Community and Technical College in Kentucky, and Laredo Community College in Texas. With this grant, the AEP Foundation has committed nearly $14.2 million across the AEP service territory to help students pursue careers in STEM.

BridgeValley Community and Technical College serves a six-county region including Fayette, Raleigh, Nicholas, Clay, Putnam and Kanawha counties. The college operates two campuses, in Montgomery and South Charleston, along with the Advanced Technology Center of Southern West Virginia.

Appalachian Power has 1 million customers in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee (as AEP Appalachian Power). It is a unit of American Electric Power, one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, delivering electricity and custom energy solutions to nearly 5.4 million customers in 11 states. AEP owns the nation’s largest electricity transmission system, a more than 40,000-mile network that includes more 765-kilovolt extra-high voltage transmission lines than all other U.S. transmission systems combined. AEP also operates 224,000 miles of distribution lines. AEP ranks among the nation’s largest generators of electricity, owning approximately 26,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the U.S. AEP supplies 3,200 megawatts of renewable energy to customers.

The AEP Foundation is funded by American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) and its utility operating units, including Appalachian Power. The Foundation provides a permanent, ongoing resource for charitable initiatives involving higher dollar values and multi-year commitments in the communities served by AEP and initiatives outside of AEP’s 11-state service area. The Foundation focuses on improving lives through education from early childhood through higher education in the areas of science, technology, engineering, math and the environment, and by meeting basic needs for emergency shelter, affordable housing and the elimination of hunger. Other Foundation support may be offered to protect the environment, support healthcare and safety, and enrich life through art, music and cultural heritage. The AEP Foundation is based in Columbus, Ohio.

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