Celebrating 30 years of powering Bright Ideas; co-ops open education grants to help reimagine learning

Starting April 1, North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives are calling on educators from all 100 counties across the state to submit their ‘Bright Idea’ for a chance to bring their dream classroom project to life.

From sustainability gardens to elephant DNA testing to student-led podcasts, these Bright Ideas education grants have helped North Carolina students explore their curriculum to new depths for 30 years.

All 26 of North Carolina’s electric cooperatives select Bright Ideas winners from across the state each year. Grants are available for K-12 educators and in all subjects. The number of grants awarded each year varies, but nearly 600 grants were awarded last year with winners receiving grants ranging from $500 to $3,000 to help create memorable and lasting educational experiences for North Carolina students.

Educators can learn more and apply at ncbrightideas.com. Applications run from April to September of each year, with winners being notified shortly thereafter.

Pelezo with students who helped build community garden.

“North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are investing back into our kids’ futures,” said Jean Pelezo, a 2023 Bright Ideas grant winner from VanStory Hills Elementary in Fayetteville and a 2024 state finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. “These grants help teachers invest in projects and lessons that make students excited to come to school every day and build memories that hopefully last a lifetime.”

Classroom projects that enrich learning can be costly, and many teachers personally fund experiences that bring learning to life for students.

That need in cooperative communities is one of the reasons why North Carolina’s electric cooperatives created the Bright Ideas education program in 1994. Now, thirty years later, North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives have collectively awarded more than $15 million in grants to fund nearly 14,700 projects, reaching more than 3.6 million students.

“These teachers are inspiring the next generation of young minds that will grow up to be leaders of change in our world,” said Townley Venters, director of communications for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “We recognize how valuable of a role these educators play, and we want help by giving back to them. Our dedication to our communities starts in the classroom, and we’re excited to see what projects and lessons our teachers come up with for the 30th anniversary of the Bright Ideas education grant program.”