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AEP Foundation launches $5 million STEM education initiative

by on October 16, 2013

(Story by Barry Schumann)

Two West High School female engineering students demonstrate a robotics project to visitors. Photos by Sarah Hunyadi.

Two West High School female engineering students demonstrate a robotics project to visitors. Photos by Sarah Hunyadi.

The American Electric Power Foundation today announced a new, dual enrollment science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) initiative aimed at helping high school students bridge the gap between school and college or a career.

Credits Count is expected to begin in fall 2014 at West High School in Columbus. Initiative partners Columbus State Community College and Columbus City Schools will roll out the program to four additional Columbus high schools over the next five years, according to Nick Akins, AEP president and CEO and chairman of the AEP Foundation.

“Far too often, we hear of barriers such as the cost of tuition that keep our students from moving on to higher education and reaching their career aspirations,” Akins said. “Our goal is to help students become fully prepared to graduate from high school ready for a career or with a significant number of credit hours toward a college education.”

Major components of the $5 million program include:

  • Middle school STEM experiences to engage students in college exploration of STEM-related careers.
  • College course readiness assessments to identify gaps in writing, math and reading that need tutoring support.
  • A summer bridge program to provide English and math remediation prior to students entering the dual enrollment program.
  • Dual enrollment in high school and at Columbus State, allowing students to graduate high school with at least 12 college credits in STEM studies such as energy, the environment, information technology and more.

Nearly 3,000 students will be assessed for college readiness, and some 1,300 will participate in the bridge program to improve English and math skills. About 780 middle school students will participate in a summer STEM college experience, and more than 600 students will receive college-level coursework while completing high school in the first five years.

AEP CEO Nick Akins presents details of  the Credits Countsm program during a ceremony at West High School in Columbus, Ohio.

AEP CEO Nick Akins presents details of the Credits Countsm program during a ceremony at West High School in Columbus, Ohio.

“From an employer’s standpoint, we need to make sure that students entering the work force have the strong reasoning and problem-solving skills they will need to be successful in today’s fast-paced, changing world,” Akins said. “The business challenges we face require our employees to be agile, think creatively, make smart decisions, take advantage of new tools and technologies, and use resources in the most effective and efficient ways.

“Credits Count expands access to a college credential, ensures affordability for Columbus students and families, and aligns with regional career opportunities,” said Columbus State Community College President David Harrison. “This partnership will eliminate uncertainty by providing a planned pathway to college and career success.”

“Partnerships such as this provide our students with opportunities they might not otherwise realize existed,” said Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dan Good. “This is an exciting opportunity for students from middle school through high school to not only explore careers, but also to make significant progress toward achieving their dreams.”

Engaging middle school students in STEM explorations will help them consider careers and plan their middle- and high-school coursework accordingly at a time when far too many students lack clear direction and the impetus to take the courses that prepare them for college or a career. The readiness assessments and summer bridge program will identify and address necessary remediation in English and math to help students prepare for and successfully complete the college-level coursework that is a hallmark of the program.

Akins said the program is being piloted in Columbus with the expectation that it will be replicated in other areas of AEP’s 11-state service territory.

Credits Count is the largest education-related initiative in the AEP Foundation’s history. Since its inception, the Foundation has provided more than $35 million for education, or nearly 40 percent of all Foundation giving.

The AEP 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 Foundation is based in Columbus.

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