Football-Caribbean Cruise-Celebration-Big Bucks Mark Historic Bright Ideas Week

Raleigh, N.C. —A surprise visit by Carolina Panthers team members, motivational messages by nationally renowned educators, a Caribbean cruise giveaway for one deserving teacher, and the awarding of grants to some of the state’s most innovative teachers will highlight Bright Ideas Week in North Carolina, November 14-18.

“Bright Ideas is in its 12th year assisting North Carolina’s teachers. It’s also been our most successful year,” said Suzanne Ward, statewide Bright Ideas coordinator for North Carolina’s Touchstone Energy cooperatives. The state’s electric cooperatives awarded $540,000 in 2005, a record amount of grant monies for the Bright Ideas program. Since 1994, North Carolina’s Touchstone Energy cooperatives have funded more than $4.5 million in Bright Ideas grants that have reached 800,000 students. North Carolina’s Touchstone Energy cooperatives established the Bright Ideas program to help teachers who were funding classroom-based projects out of their own pockets.

On Monday, November 14, at the City Hotel & Bistro in Greenville, NC, the Electric Cooperatives of Eastern Carolina will award Bright Ideas Grants totaling more than $45,000. In addition to presenting the award-winning teachers with their cash, the electric cooperatives will surprise one lucky teacher with a 7-day Caribbean cruise for two.

On Tuesday, November 15, Carolina Panther players Jamal Robertson (Running Back and Kick Returner), Efrem Hill (Wide Receiver) and Atiyyah Ellison (Defensive Lineman) will pay a surprise visit to McKee Road Elementary in Charlotte, NC, to kickoff Bright Ideas Week and present a $1,008 Bright Ideas grant on behalf of Union Power Cooperative (Monroe, NC) for the project “Gardens for Habitat.” The grant purchased vegetables, flowers and potting soil for the third grade students at McKee Road Elementary to create a garden for a family receiving a Habitat for Humanity house. It is a yearlong project that will enable students to learn about service through multi-curriculum, including science, math, physical education and character education.  Paving bricks, also purchased by the grant monies, will be painted and colored by the students with “character education” words and will frame the garden at the Habitat for Humanity house. The Panthers players will also speak at a school wide assembly about the importance of volunteerism and community service.

Renowned educator Brian Freeman will keynote a Bright Ideas awards luncheon on Thursday, November 17 at the Hilton North Raleigh in Raleigh for 150 winning teachers in the Triangle and surrounding areas. Freeman has been recognized numerous times on the local, state and national level for his outstanding creativity and teaching efforts. Recently he was named the North Carolina Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year and in the past was a Disney teacher honoree, named National Second Grade Teacher of the Year by Staff Development for Educators, and has twice been named one of the top forty teachers in the nation by USA Today newspaper.

The Bright Ideas education grant program is another example of the electric cooperatives’ commitment to community. North Carolina’s electric cooperatives serve 2.5 million people in 93 of the state’s 100 counties.