October 23, 2018

Southwest Power Pool, Little Rock School District partner to enhance STEM education for local students

LITTLE ROCK, ARK. - Southwest Power Pool (SPP), a Little Rock-based grid operator in the electric utility industry, wants to ensure students in its community have every opportunity to pursue rewarding careers in technical fields without leaving their home state. SPP has joined with the Little Rock School District (LRSD) to bolster science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education beginning with elementary school students districtwide.

The partnership grew from SPP President and CEO Nick Brown’s belief that too little has been done in the Arkansas educational system to encourage young students in STEM-related pursuits.

“There’s been tremendous investment at the high school and university level in our state to increase the quality of STEM education,” Brown said. “That’s wonderful, but it’s resulted in very few people entering the workforce pipeline at the other end. Many students, especially minorities and young women, opt out of the STEM career path early on because they’re taught it’s too difficult, they don’t see people who look like them already in those careers, or they’re not shown examples of career opportunities waiting for them at the end of their school journey.”

SPP’s STEM Outreach Program aims to change this by supporting the STEM-career pipeline at every grade level, beginning with elementary school and continuing through college. Components of the program will include:

  • Sponsorship of LRSD’s One District, One Book elementary school reading program, in which every elementary-age student in the district will be given the same STEM-related book to read over the same four-week period in fall 2018.

  • Sponsorship of a middle school science fair competition. Students will have the opportunity to avail themselves of the expertise of SPP staff throughout the development of projects, and SPP will reward top eighth-graders who research and present electricity-related projects.

  • Sponsorship of LRSD’s Excel program for gifted high school students, in which SPP’s professionals will coach students through the development of proposals to solve real-world problems facing the utility industry.

  • A school supply drive benefiting one of the district’s most in-need middle schools.

  • Teach-the-teacher sessions in which SPP staff will help educators draw parallels between classroom concepts and activities and real-world applications from the electric industry.

Additionally, SPP continues to provide paid college internships for students studying engineering and software development.

“We are grateful to Southwest Power Pool for this extensive commitment to STEM education within the LRSD and are excited about our next steps,” LRSD Superintendent Mike Poore said. “Mr. Brown and his team did not wait for us to approach them; they asked what they could do to support our students. Business, community and school partnerships are vital to the success of public education. We know that solutions for our future lie in having young people prepared to be the next scientists, engineers, innovators and community leaders, and thanks to the generous investment by SPP we will be able to provide those kinds of opportunities for our students.”  

“We applaud Southwest Power Pool for its leadership in promoting STEM education in the Little Rock School District,” said Jay Chesshir, Little Rock Regional Chamber president and CEO. “By contributing both time and money to engage with students at every grade level, they demonstrate the outstanding career opportunities a STEM education can provide. SPP is helping shape the change they seek; not just for their own workforce, but for the Little Rock community as a whole.”

SPP hopes their investment in their local district serves as an inspiration to others.

“The need we’re addressing exists beyond Little Rock,” Brown said. “We hope our impact is felt beyond this community, too. We want to show that businesses can have a measurable effect on educational outcomes, and they can do so with relatively small investments of time, expertise and money in the right places. Hopefully others will see our example and follow suit in their own hometowns, eventually leading to systemic improvements across our state and country.”

About SPP: Southwest Power Pool, Inc. manages the electric grid and wholesale energy market for the central United States. As a regional transmission organization, the nonprofit corporation is mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure and competitive wholesale electricity prices. Southwest Power Pool and its diverse group of member companies coordinate the flow of electricity across 66,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines spanning 14 states. The company’s headquarters are in Little Rock, Arkansas. Learn more at www.spp.org. Job openings are posted at www.spp.org/careers.

Derek Wingfield, 501-614-3394, dwingfield@spp.org