Co-op funding ‘Bright Ideas’ at schools

By Tom Joyce -

DOBSON — Deadlines are approaching for an annual grant program offered through Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp. which funds innovative projects of local educators.

Bright Ideas grants totaling $6,250 were awarded last year for 10 projects at schools in the coverage area of the local cooperative headquartered in Dobson, including six campuses in Surry County.

A new application cycle is underway for this year’s edition of the Bright Ideas education grant program, which has been in operation for more than 20 years among Surry-Yadkin and other electric cooperatives in North Carolina. Its goal is assisting teachers and students with creative, classroom-based learning projects.

In providing a recent example of such a project Wednesday, Jim Robertson, a Surry-Yadkin EMC spokesman, mentioned a “living wax museum” conducted by students of Elaine Reales at B.H. Tharrington Primary School in Mount Airy.

“The kids each pick a historical figure, and they have to dress as that character,” Robertson said in explaining the project. “And they create a display booth with facts about the person.” Pro quarterback Tom Brady and singer Michael Jackson were among the individuals highlighted.

But the living wax museum also offered another dimension, in which viewers had the choice of having the youths talk about their characters in either English or Spanish. This stressed bilingual education, according to Robertson, who witnessed the display firsthand.

“And it was really fun to see.”

Parents and others also saw the kids portray the different characters through an open house at the school.

Reales, the teacher, used $645 in Bright Ideas grant money to buy Chromebooks, a faster, generally less expensive type of laptop computer, to aid students in researching historical figures for the living wax museum.

“She applies every year,” Robertson said of the Tharrington educator.

Now others in the area have an opportunity to tap into the Bright Ideas grant program, which also has awarded projects involving interactive science labs for animal research, or teaching students to be more nutrition- or energy-conscious.

The program operates on the principle that youths are more prone to learn about science or other subjects by engaging in efforts that build their enthusiasm.

Key dates

Teachers can apply for Bright Ideas grants of up to $1,000, which is part of more than $600,000 in funding that will be awarded to teachers statewide during the upcoming school year.

The final deadline to apply is Sept. 19. However, teachers who submit a completed application by an early bird deadline of Aug. 15 will be entered to win one of five $100 gift cards as an added bonus.

Classroom teachers at qualifying schools in Surry, Yadkin, Wilkes, Stokes and Forsyth counties can apply individually or as a team for the Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp. grants.

The application, grant-writing tips and more information about the Bright Ideas education program can be found at

“We are proud to support educators whose dedication and enthusiasm impact young minds in our community,” Surry-Yadkin EMC Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Puckett said in a statement.

“These educators go above and beyond and are true leaders in their schools and their communities,” Puckett added. “We encourage all interested teachers to submit an application by Tuesday, Aug. 15, for a chance to win an extra $100.”

Grant winners are expected to be announced by the end of 2018.

In addition to Tharrington Primary School, successful grant applications were submitted last year for projects at campuses in Surry including Mount Airy Middle, J.J. Jones Intermediate, J. Sam Gentry Middle, Flat Rock Elementary and Dobson Elementary schools.

Robertson said Thursday that similar to the projects awarded, the local co-op seeks to be innovative in how it recognizes grant recipients, which for 2017-2018 involved a bucket truck visiting each campus. He said this approach will be hard to top.

Since 1994, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives have awarded more than $11.5 million in Bright Ideas grants for 11,000-plus projects benefiting 2.2 million students.

“Surry-Yadkin EMC is dedicated to supporting education in our communities,” Puckett stated. “We believe there is no better way to foster new learning opportunities for our future leaders than by empowering teachers.”

By Tom Joyce

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.