New STEM program: TPS students to benefit from AEP Foundation’s $3 million grant to TCC
By Nour Habib, World Staff Writer
The American Electric Power Foundation and Tulsa Community College on Monday will announce a $3 million grant that will fund a new science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — program that will benefit students in Tulsa Public Schools.
The program, called Credits Count, essentially seeks to work with students to prepare them to take college-level STEM classes and allows them to earn college credit while still in high school.
Stan Whiteford, spokesman for the Public Service Company of Oklahoma, a utility operating unit of AEP, said the program is targeting students who “may be on the bubble” regarding pursuing a STEM-related career.
“This really is giving them the tools that give them a nudge in that direction,” Whiteford said.
The $3 million grant program, over five years, will begin at Will Rogers College High School in 2016 and expand to a total of four TPS high schools and the middle schools that feed into them.
TCC spokeswoman Nicole Burgin said the program will include four elements, which officials identify as middle school STEM exploration, college course readiness assessments and tutoring, a summer bridge program to polish English and math skills, and dual enrollment in high school and at TCC.
Gov. Mary Fallin is expected to be present and speak at the official announcement scheduled for Monday afternoon at Will Rogers College High School.
The specifics of how the program will work will be developed this year, headed by a program director at TCC. Whiteford said the vision is for TCC instructors and TPS teachers to work together in administering the program at the schools.
The remaining schools to be served by the program will be determined during the development of the program this year.
Officials say that the program will allow students to have earned credits that count toward a certificate in a STEM-related career or college degree in fields that include engineering and biotechnology.
The program is expected to help assess college readiness in about 1,000 students. The summer program is expected to help 800 students improve their math, science and English skills, and allow up to 800 students to receive credit for college-level classes. At the middle school level, about 3,000 students will participate in summer STEM college experiences.
Whiteford said this grant is the single-largest contribution from the corporation to any cause in the state.
“It’s a high level of commitment on the part of PSO and the AEP foundation,” he said.
Whiteford said AEP-PSO recognizes that the workforce of the future in its industry is heavy in STEM positions.
“Those are the types of jobs we’re going to need going forward,” Whiteford said.
That’s true for many other industries, too, he said.
“STEM-related careers are growing fast,” he said. “We need to provide opportunities so kids growing up in Oklahoma and in Tulsa have the opportunity to compete for those jobs.”