Empowering Through Education

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A Georgia resident carefully carries a ladder
Christmas comes early when Walton EMC representatives visit local schools in early December to hand out School EmPOWERment grants. The cooperative has distributed more than $1.4 million in grants over the last four years..

Teachers Jennifer Haynes and Aimee Litt-Ward know. So does Alexander Hong, a recent graduate of Brookwood High School. The same is true for all of Michael Finnerty’s seventh grade science students at Athens Academy.

These individuals are among the thousands each year who have first-hand knowledge of Walton EMC’s commitment to students, teachers and the 75 schools within the co-op’s service area. They know the co-op is contributing to the quality of life here in northern Georgia by empowering youth through education.

Providing a reliable electric system is paramount at Walton EMC, but the co-op is also dedicated to maintaining vibrant, sustainable communities. Schools and education are an important part of that.

From preschools to high schools, Walton EMC is investing in a

variety of initiatives to supplement the classroom experience.

From preschools to high schools, Walton EMC is investing in a variety of initiatives to supplement the classroom experience. This month we’re spotlighting three of those.

School EmPOWERment Grants

Throughout Walton EMC’s service area, Christmas comes early when co-op representatives deliver School EmPOWERment Grants to classrooms in early December. The grants provide classroom-level funding for educational programs and projects.

The cooperative handed out grants totaling $360,338 in 2019. The latest disbursements bring the four-year grant total to more than $1.4 million.

Many of the 81 grants presented last year are

helping educators teach the key subjects of

science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Many of the 81 grants presented last year are helping educators teach the key subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — popularly known as STEM. For instance, a $4,949 grant helped Jennifer Haynes, a K-2 STEM teacher at Morgan County Primary School, purchase robotics kits. Second graders will use them to learn computer coding skills. 

“Coding is great for teaching how to follow directions, problem solve, communicate and persist in a difficult task,” the teacher said.

A beautiful swimming pool
Jacob Aaron, a student at Morgan County Primary School, displays the robot he built using a kit purchased with a Walton EMC School EmPOWERment Grant.

Her students, most of them only 8 years old, learn to build their own robots and then program them to perform specific tasks.

“If the robot does not do what the student wants it to do, then the student must debug the code and try again and again, until the robot performs the movement,” she said.

Coding and robot building provide challenging STEM coursework necessary to prepare today’s students for a future world that is heavily reliant on technology.

“Our students love them!” Haynes added. “Thank you so much Walton EMC, for your grant made this purchase possible for our students!”

The recent round of EmPOWERment grants also support numerous literacy programs benefitting students of all ages. At Cooper Elementary in Loganville, a $4,000 grant funded the Community of Readers project. Nearly 1,000 books and magazine subscriptions were purchased for all of the school’s K-5 and special education classrooms, giving every student in the school access to new reading materials.

“The teachers and students have loved the books they got,” said Aimee Litt-Ward, literacy coach and reading teacher at the school. “The goal is to give students opportunities to read something alongside a buddy and collaborate, much like a book club.”

A beautiful swimming pool
Residential pools, such as this one built by Athens Pool & Spa, are in high demand to provide entertainment and exercise options while Georgia families spend more time at home.

The first books were distributed during Read Across America week in early March, just before schools were forced to transition to remote instruction.

“Many of these books went home with students during the shelter-in-place,” Litt-Ward said. “The books gave students a way to step back from their digital work and have some reading material in their hand.”

Co-op in the classroom

Jennifer Broun is at ease teaching in the classroom. After all, before she was Walton EMC’s community and youth representative, Broun was a middle school teacher.

Broun annually presents more than 50 free educational

programs to students in preschool through high school.

“My favorite thing is going back into the classroom,” said Broun, who annually presents more than 50 free educational programs to students in preschool through high school.

The Walton EMC employee delivers programs meant to supplement curriculum in local schools. One of her favorite programs involves illuminating a light bulb with an electromagnet. 

“It helps to support the science lessons teachers are teaching in fourth and fifth grades,” she said.

Broun also provides age-appropriate, electrical safety demonstrations. The programs teach students how to play it safe around electric power lines and in their homes.

The co-op employee is looking forward to introducing the co-op’s Solar Sprint Races program to more schools this year. The program, which teaches middle school students about renewable resources such as solar power, has gained a partner in Facebook’s new Newton Data Center in Social Circle.

The solar races got their start as a program for seventh graders at Athens Academy, a college preparatory school in Athens. With added funding, Walton EMC and Facebook leaders hope to incrementally expand the program to more schools in the co-op’s service area.

Walton Electric Trust Scholarships

For thousands of Georgia students, heading back to school involves a college campus or an area vocational-technical school where they will pursue post-high school studies. Walton Electric Trust Scholarships will help 60 area students, including Brookwood High School graduate Alexander Hong, pay for that education.

The Trust has awarded more than 600 scholarships worth

almost $2.5 million since the program began in 2009.

The Trust has awarded more than 600 scholarships worth almost $2.5 million since the program began in 2009. The scholarships are funded by unclaimed refunds to former Walton EMC customer-owners. After all efforts are exhausted to find the rightful owners, the money goes into an endowment provided for by Georgia law.

Hundreds of students apply for the scholarships each year. The eventual winners exhibit exceptional work ethic, triumph over obstacles, community service and extracurricular activities.

Thirty-one 2020 seniors received scholarships of $4,000. Another 29 were awarded runner-up scholarships of $1,000. Read the list of winners

More opportunities

  • Washington Youth Tour – Sends four local teens on an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to learn about democracy, leadership and cooperatives. Read about the 2020 program.
  • EMC/FFA Electrification Career Development Event – FFA skills competition that awards scholarship funds to use at any college, university or vocational school in Georgia.
  • Walton EMC Engineering Leadership Scholarship – Provides five $10,000 scholarships to students who study one of the bachelor degree programs within the University of Georgia College of Engineering. View a video.

Learn details about these and more Walton EMC youth programs and scholarships.