From Mary E. Spruill, Executive Director
I truly believe that any letter from an Executive Director must begin by saying THANK YOU! It is with deep appreciation for our teachers, students, sponsors, and friends that I say thank you for your constant and steadfast support of NEED. As daily life continues to show hints of our pre-2020 normal, we are excited to begin getting back to in-person teacher training, hosting our in-person student events, and thinking of even more creative ways to engage teachers, students and families in learning about energy. At the same time, world events now present an opportunity to have deeper discussions with students about energy and the global interconnectedness of energy resources and the accompanying energy challenges and opportunities.
As we think about how nice it feels to be back in person with great people, our team is taking a look at the lessons learned from the last two years and planning to keep many of the “new” things we tried in place moving forward. After millions of minutes in Zoom, we realized we’re really good at keeping a training workshop engaging for students and teachers even in a virtual setting. We plan to continue to offer some virtual opportunities to make NEED curriculum and training accessible to more teachers and students than ever before.
Throughout 2020 and 2021 especially, I’ve been incredibly proud to be part of a creative team of energy and education professionals here at NEED. When we consider our full time, part time and volunteer teacher team members, we have well over 50 people working to make this organization the absolute best it can be. They are always learning, always growing, and always sharing their knowledge and innovative ideas to make our curriculum more comprehensive, more relevant, and more accessible to all students and teachers.
We are fortunate to have sponsors and partners that provide the resources and the opportunities for us to stretch and expand NEED’s capabilities. From supporting the Exelon Foundation STEM Leadership Academy for young women to designing Career and Technology Education curriculum and training in wind and hydropower for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NEED has had the opportunity to make a lasting impact on workforce development efforts in many areas of the energy industry. We’re working every day to do more.
Investing in NEED programs and students means that tomorrow’s workforce will have the skills and knowledge to do great things in energy. NEED programming teaches kids about energy, but it also allows them to gain the workforce and leadership skills so necessary in their future careers. Our students in the Pacific Gas & Electric Internship program learn about energy and work with their PG&E mentors to understand how the company generates and delivers electric power and gas to consumers across California. In Illinois, ComEd’s Create a Spark program engages high school students who work through engineering challenges with a ComEd mentor. Our Prince George’s County Summer Youth Employment Program hosted 500 students daily in July as they completed a series of energy and engineering challenges with a great team of NEED’s teacher mentors. Our East Kentucky Power Cooperative summer camp brought students together for three days of engaging energy camp. In Kentucky, we tackled the issue of energy burden on families with the Kentucky Office of Energy Policy in a project based learning program designed to help students reduce energy costs in their homes. In Mississippi. we brought STEM students together with the Mississippi Development Authority – Energy Division to learn more about energy and energy careers in their state.
At the college level, Exelon STEM Leadership Academy Scholarship and ComEd Future of Energy Scholarship recipients work with company mentors to think about their future in energy careers while completing company internships. It has been extraordinary to launch so many scholarship and mentorship programs for our partners knowing how important these programs are for students.
Our curriculum team delivered several new modules over the past year including four levels of Offshore Wind thanks to support from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation. The curriculum aligns nicely to Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project underway off Virginia Beach. Thanks to the support of the U.S. Department of Interior – Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory there’s a new curriculum module on floating offshore wind as well. Teachers and students looking for lessons about the connections between energy, climate and health will find great value in the Rhode Island Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council supported Energy, Climate and You curriculum.
Our training efforts continue to expand and evolve thanks to the support of our sponsors and partners who realized that with the pandemic came an opportunity to serve more teachers and students virtually and expanded their workshops to include teachers from across the country. It is an interesting experience to have teachers from five time zones in one workshop. Our national partnerships with Phillips 66, ConocoPhillips, and Shell allowed that kind of great collaboration to happen. From one-hour sessions to multi-day training programs for teachers and students, the pandemic challenged us to innovate and grow and we did.
It was an extraordinary year full of challenge and many good opportunities and memories as well. I know our NEED family of teachers, students, partners, sponsors and friends is ready for more good things ahead. Our NEED team is ready to do great things.
I hope you’ll join us for all the fun ahead.
Mary E. Spruill