Halifax County Educator Brings Career Paths to Life With Help of NC Co-op

Because of a partnership between North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, Roanoke Cooperative and the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership, one Halifax County educator earned the experience of a lifetime this summer.

Dawn Stokes, an eighth grade science teacher at Enfield Middle S.T.E.A.M. Academy, spent the last three weeks interning with Roanoke Cooperative after being awarded a prestigious Kenan Fellowship earlier this year. For Stokes, who has been an educator for 13 years, a sense of community and the impact of this experience on her future students was most memorable.

“Roanoke Cooperative rolled out the red carpet for me during my internship and I am so thankful for this experience,” said Stokes. “North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are committed to supporting their communities and members, and I was able to witness the cooperative difference first-hand throughout my internship.”

Kenan Fellow, Dawn Stokes (from left), poses with Corey Hayes and Basil Williams of Roanoke Cooperative during her internship. Source: Amneris Solano, Kenan Fellows Program.

As part of her Kenan Fellowship, Stokes completed extensive, hands-on professional development along with her cohort of 38 fellows. The professional development and networking opportunities will continue throughout the year and into 2024, culminating in a final project that will benefit her students beyond their time in her classroom.

Discussing the initial plans for her final project after spending time at Roanoke Cooperative, Stokes said that she is designing a project that will allow her students to explore the different career paths available to them within the electric cooperative industry and beyond, learning more about what skills will be necessary as they head into the workforce.

“Though my students are eighth graders, it is never too early for them to begin thinking about their futures and preparing for life after school,” Stokes said. “I can’t wait to get back into the classroom and share what I have learned with them.”

During her internship, Stokes said she learned the nuts and bolts of the electric cooperative industry, from the role lineworkers have in keeping the lights on to how the co-op supports their local community and assists members. Perhaps most importantly, according to Stokes, she gained a greater understanding of the local workforce, the career opportunities available for her students and the types of skills necessary to perform these job functions.

As part of her internship, Stokes also spent a day in Raleigh at the offices of North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives to learn more about the statewide cooperative network and how NC co-ops are using technology and innovation to enhance grid reliability and resilience. She toured Tarheel Electric Membership Association’s warehouse where she discovered how critical materials are delivered to co-ops during hurricanes and other severe weather events, and the important role of mutual aid in storm response.

Linda Dion (from left) of the Kenan Fellows Program joined Chris Nault of NC’s Electric Cooperatives, Kenan Fellow, Dawn Stokes, and Basil Williams of Roanoke Cooperative at the office of North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives.

“Roanoke Cooperative is proud to partner with the Kenan Fellows Program and it was a pleasure to host Dawn this summer,” said Basil Williams, senior manager of member services, communications & public relations at Roanoke Cooperative, who also served as Stokes’ mentor during the internship. “Throughout this process we have learned so much from Dawn and know that this experience will positively impact her future as an educator and the students of Halifax County.”

Stokes is the first teacher from a Halifax County school to be selected as a Kenan Fellow. Beyond teaching, Stokes serves as the school’s science department chair, eighth-grade team lead and member of the school’s improvement team. She is the first Kenan Fellow hosted by Roanoke Cooperative and the 11th to be hosted by a North Carolina electric cooperative.

North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives has partnered with the Kenan Fellows Program since 2014 to connect local teachers with electric co-ops, and tie lessons taught in the classroom with real-world skills needed in the workforce. To learn more about how North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are building a brighter future through investing in education initiatives, visit www.ncelectriccooperatives.com or contact your local electric co-op.