Educating a Brighter Future - Carolina Country

Educating a Brighter Future

The Bright Ideas Education Grant Program advances excellence in education

By Kristie Aldridge

Brian Burnett

Kristie Aldridge

Every August, as children soak up their last summer days, teachers are hard at work planning, arranging classrooms and stocking supplies for the year ahead. Students arrive to a new year filled with potential, and parents are grateful. But throughout the year, teachers often quietly spend their own money to support creative learning and student growth.

In 1994, an employee of Supply-based Brunswick Electric saw this happening in her community, which sparked a “bright idea:” For the state’s 26 electric cooperatives to band together to offer grants to teachers across the state.

The Bright Ideas Education Grant Program advances excellence in education and accelerates student learning by providing NC teachers with funding for innovative and creative projects that otherwise would not be funded. Supporting education, community and economic development is important to North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives because they are rooted in the communities they serve and want to help build a brighter future for their neighbors.

North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives have awarded $13.6 million to K–12 educators, funding nearly 13,000 innovative projects.

Since that first bright idea in 1994, North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives have awarded $13.6 million to K–12 educators, funding nearly 13,000 innovative projects that have impacted the lives of more than 2.7 million students across the state. This year, North Carolina’s 26 cooperatives will collectively award an estimated $600,000 in grants.

Projects funded by Bright Ideas grants encourage learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as well as life skills, problem solving and community service. Their impact extends beyond the classroom, with students applying lessons learned at home and in their communities.

Even amid the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presented, the Bright Ideas Education Grant Program remained strong. The grants were more important than ever in supporting teachers’ creative ideas for engaging students in virtual learning environments, and North Carolina’s electric cooperatives were grateful for teachers’ resilience and honored to support their creative ideas.

A teacher from Lenoir County recently submitted a final evaluation of her project and expressed her gratitude, saying the grant for building and maintaining a community garden changed the lives of her students. The middle school students learned the importance of patience, determination and compassion, and the project benefited the local community by donating the garden’s crops to an area soup kitchen.
Bright Ideas grants are focused on changing lives and making an impression on students of all ages by facilitating teachers’ abilities to provide children with memorable, hands-on learning experiences.

This year’s Bright Ideas application period is open until mid-September with dates varying by local electric cooperative. Teachers are encouraged to visit ncbrightideas.com to learn more and apply for a grant.

About the Author

Kristie Aldridge is director of Strategic Communication & Marketing for North Carolina’ Electric Cooperatives.

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