November 12, 2014

MARTINSVILLE (MARTINSVILLE BULLETIN) - The American Electric Power Foundation awarded a $150,000 grant to the New College Institute on Tuesday.

The funds will be used for operating expenses in NCI’s Academy for Engineering and Technology (AET), according to William Wampler, executive director of the institute.

Charles Patton, president and chief operating officer for Appalachian Power, of which AEP is the parent company, visited Martinsville to present the check to Wampler.

The AET “speaks for itself” and its commitment to STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math, Patton said.

“The AEP Foundation strives to improve the quality of life for people in communities where AEP and its operating units serve and where AEP employees live and work,” he added.

Grants from the foundation are competitive and may be difficult to obtain, he said. However, awarding a grant to NCI was a no-brainer because of its “well thought out and structured AET program, Patton said. “I am excited about everything that’s going on here,” he added.

Students such as Alexis Adams also were pleased with the award because they will benefit from it. A senior at Carlisle, she is enrolled in the technology portion of the AET program.

“It’s a lot of logistics, supply chain management” and acquiring the skills needed to run logistics needed in business, she said.

A former student at Magna Vista, Adams said after learning about the AET, she decided to enroll in the program, even though she was not sure whether she would like it

“Honestly, I love NCI. I love AET. It’s helping me a lot ... learning about myself really,” she said.

Before enrolling in the AET program, Adams thought physical therapy would be her future career. Getting an education was “the same routine every day. But now, I feel like I’m living the college life,” she said.

A school bus transports Adams and the more than 40 students enrolled in the AET program to NCI’s Martinsville campus, Wampler said. A similar endeavor is underway in Danville with a little more than 20 students, he added.

The student population in the AET program is bucking the trends at many other institutions, with “as many females as males enrolled,” Wampler said. Minorities comprise about 70 percent of the student population, he added.

“That breaks almost every record in the STEM field,” Wampler said.

He believes AEP and the foundation view AET as “an opportunity to take students that are very bright” and have the aptitude and ability “into the critical STEM fields.”

Those fields open up a whole new world for students such as Adams, who changed her mind about a career as a physical therapist and charted a new course for her future.

“Hopefully I will go to college and major in logistics ... at Virginia State University” after graduating from high school, Adams said.

After completing her educational goals, “I could see myself running a business” or working at Amazon, she said of the online retailer. Adams’ new end goal is to become president — or maybe vice president — of Amazon, she said.

Adams spent last summer interning at Virginia Glass Products Corp. (Virginia Glass & Mirror) and also completed a “very rigorous and intensive two-week SAP program,” said Dr. Leanna Blevins, associate director and chief academic officer of NCI.

A member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge since third grade, Adams also is a finalist for the Youth of the Year award presented by that organization, Blevins said.

Adams and students like her “are going to change the world,” Blevins said.


See article and photos from the Martinsville Bulletin here.