North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives helps spark new career paths for Athens Drive seniors

North Carolina’s electric cooperatives’ commitment to building a brighter future starts with investing in the next generation that will help power the state.

Since 2018, high school seniors from Athens Drive Magnet High School’s STEM Academy have visited the cooperative’s statewide office in Raleigh for an educational experience that showcases innovative energy solutions and the exciting technology that the cooperatives are utilizing in their communities.

For many of these students, it’s more than a field trip; it’s an opportunity to explore a future career.

“I want to be an engineer when I grow up, so being able to talk with someone who’s in a field I’m working towards is such a valuable experience,” said Charlotte Holcombe, a senior at Athens Drive Magnet High School’s STEM Academy. “I’ve been able to connect so many of the things I’ve learned in school with what I’ve seen here.”

A peak behind the curtains

Chris Walton demonstrates 'House of Pressure' to students.

Chris Walton demonstrates ‘House of Pressure’ to students.

The group of high school seniors were able to work alongside cooperative volunteers, learning about how the integrated operations center helps ensure reliable energy delivery, and how innovation and technology are changing the way co-op members consume energy.  These students also observed an interactive demonstration from the ‘house of pressure,’ a home performance model that uses airflow and pressure diagnostics that can test for and improve energy efficiency in the home.

Along with each of these demonstrations and presentations, students learned about how the cooperatives are powering the communities they serve with reliable and sustainable energy.

“These students will play a big role in carrying out our brighter future vision,” said Kara Gravinese, innovation and business development analyst at North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “You can tell that they have a much deeper understanding of utilities and the grid. Sustainability is something that is top of mind for them, and that’s a positive sign for our state.”

Exploring new careers and opportunities

Prior to partnering with the STEM Academy for the annual on-site visit, North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives also pledged their support to help the school install its first solar array.

Students get a look into integrated operations centers.

With college or the workforce just around the corner for these students, their teachers said that real, tangible experiences like this make a world of difference.

“Having authentic, engaging experiences is critical to their growth,” said Lauren Doran, a science teacher at Athens Drive Magnet High School’s STEM Academy. “It’s neat for them to see the connection between the solar array we have at school and the role that North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives played in that. It’s exciting and energizing for them to want to make more of an impact at school through this partnership.”

Before the day was over, some students said the trip sparked new career ideas and goals they hadn’t imagined prior to stepping on the bus.

“In college, I plan to study physics and visit the applied and theoretical aspects of things, and I feel like those kinds of sciences are needed in energy fields,” said Mathiew Lewis, a senior at Athens Drive Magnet High School’s STEM Academy. “Many of the things I learned here make me feel like I can play a big role in impacting my community, especially when it comes to energy.”