American Electric Power presented The University of Virginia’s College at Wise with $75,000 Monday, Dec. 11, 2017,  to allow the College to maintain and grow its popular Girls’ Day in STEM-H program for the next three years.

The funding will also allow the College to purchase materials that the teachers and girls can take back to the classroom to keep the lessons going all school year. In addition to the funding, AEP staff expressed interest in participating in the program to show the young sixth grade girls from the region how engineering and other science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers are vital to the nation’s power industry, and how women play a key role.

“We know the great need out there for young women to enter the STEM programs,” said Mary Begley, AEP’s manager for external affairs. “The career opportunities are excellent for these young women.”

For the past two years, UVa-Wise has held Girls’ Day in STEM-H for sixth grade girls in the region. Faculty, students and staff volunteer to organize the event, and faculty and scientists and health professionals from the community offer a variety of workshops for the girls. The sessions and the event are designed to show young girls that STEM-H careers are exciting and attainable.

“This is something that is one of my passions,” said UVa-Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry. “We found a way to make it work for a few years, but we wanted to expand the program and to give workbooks and other materials to the teachers. AEP has opened up more opportunities for girls in our region.”

Studies show that girls’ interest in science, mathematics and similar fields dwindle after middle school. Girls’ Day in STEM-H, which started at the request of Professor Madelynn Shell and Professor Alexandria Reynolds, is designed to keep the girls’ interest growing.

“We’re going to be able to do our event with this funding for the next three years,” Shell said.

“It solidifies our ability to keep the dream alive,” Reynolds said. “It takes us from a one day event to year long in the classrooms.”

More than 400 young girls participate in Girls’ Day in STEM-H at UVa-Wise. Organizers anticipate that the AEP funding will bring even more to the third event, set for Sept. 24, 2018, in the David J. Prior Convocation Center.

PHOTO: AEP representatives Mary Begley, Emily Ball and Tracy Hertig present the check to UVa-Wise officials.