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AEP Foundation Awards $1.58 Million Grant to BridgeValley for STEM Education Program

by on December 6, 2017
Appalachian Power President and COO Chris Beam (right) and External Affairs Vice President Mark Dempsey (left) presented a symbolic check to Nitro and Riverside High School students and BridgeValley’s president as part of a media announcement in Charleston.

(Story by Jeri Matheney)

Students at two West Virginia high schools and BridgeValley Community & Technical College have 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.

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.

“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.

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.

Chris Beam and Dr. Eunice Bellinger, BridgeValley president, at the December 4 press conference.

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.

From → News From AEP

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