FirstEnergy: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: FirstEnergy is a U.S.-based “diversified energy company” committed to philanthropy through its corporate enterprise as well as through its charitable arm, the FirstEnergy Foundation. Supports goes to education, community development, and arts and culture.   

IP TAKE: FirstEnergy gives modest amounts to K-12 STEM classroom projects, and also provides funding to community-organization K-12 education initiatives that can have a wider-ranging scope. But it’s all predicated on educating K-12 students in a community that receives FirstEnergy services (it’s a healthy list).

PROFILE: FirstEnergy, a “diversified energy company” headquartered in Akron, OH, is a funder of K-12 education through both the Corporate Affairs & Community Involvement department and through the company’s charitable arm, the FirstEnergy Foundation. Which entity you seek your K-12 education funding from depends upon what you’re looking to fund.

The commonality between the corporate and foundation grants is geographic restriction. FirstEnergy provides funding to organizations operating in areas where it provides services and does business. This includes substantial swaths Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New Jersey, as well as portions of Maryland, Virginia, Illinois and Michigan. 

On the corporate side, FirstEnergy’s commitment to K-12 education comes in the form of STEM Classroom Grants. These classroom grants provide up to $500 to educators at schools and youth groups. (You’ll also be “competing” with the pre-K set.) FirstEnergy seeks STEM classroom projects that “creative” and that “improve, advance and enrich student learning.” When it comes to these STEM classroom grants, FirstEnergy is also eager to support projects that encourage networking, mentoring, team-teaching, and professional development for the educator who is at the helm.

Of special note: You’ll get extra notice if your proposed classroom project addresses electricity; it’s the bread-and-butter of this company after all.

It’s also important to note what the STEM Classroom Grants won’t cover: media equipment, admissions fees or transportation. These grants also can’t be used to compensate the classroom educators themselves (though the funds can be earmarked for professionals who visit the classroom).

The company’s FirstEnergy Education Advisory Council oversees the selection of grant awardees, and gave out 72 STEM Classroom Grants in its 2014/2015 school year cycle. The open application process is posted online in April of each year, to fund classroom projects that will occur the following school year.

The FirstEnergy Foundation provides an opportunity to receive funding in somewhat larger dollar amounts, and for K-12 education initiatives that address programming beyond the STEM realm. The caveat here is that the FirstEnergy Foundation will not directly support public or private schools for the pre K-12 grade levels. (It’s a whole different ballgame at the college and university level, where the foundation gives enormous support to both private and public institutions.)

That said, elementary and secondary schools can find a way to receive FirstEnergy Foundation funding, if that support flows through a school district’s established non-profit foundation. But far more of this foundation’s K-12 education support is given to community-based organizations—again, in the communities in which its corporate side provides services and does business.

The foundation states its support of education as focusing on advancing “an educated workforce by supporting professional development and literacy, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education initiatives.” It’s also useful to keep in mind that the foundation seeks to “improve the vitality of our communities and support key safety initiatives,” as well as “promote local and regional economic development and revitalization efforts,” because community-based K-12 education programming can be related to these efforts as well. 

Recent K-12 education organizations supported by the FirstEnergy Foundation include:

The FirstEnergy Foundation also gives to a variety of Junior Achievement geographic affiliates, with amounts ranging from $100 to $5,000.

Because it generally doesn’t give huge amounts, the FirstEnergy Foundation likes to know that you’ve created additional partnerships and have cultivated other funding resources to assure your K-12 education program’s financial health. The foundation asks you to discuss these partnerships and funding sources on your grant application.

And about that grant application: The FirstEnergy Foundation does not formally accept unsolicited ones. Do not let this deter you. The foundation encourages you to make contact with local FirstEnergy management. The foundation also encourages you to reach out to the staff of its Community Involvement Department (see below).

While you’re making those inroads, you can also take a look at the grant application you will eventually fill out. (Do this using the Safari platform; the download of this Microsoft Word document does not seem to work in Firefox.)

PEOPLE:

  • Dee Lowery, President of FirstEnergy Foundation and Vice President, Corporate Affairs & Community Involvement of FirstEnergy
  • Michael J. Dowling, Senior Vice President, External Affairs of FirstEnergy Service Company

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