FirstEnergy: Grants for Science 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. In order to be eligible, you must be in a community that receives FirstEnergy services.

IP TAKE: FirstEnergy gives modest amounts to pre-K and K-12 STEM classroom projects and higher amounts to college and university programs. It also provides larger amounts to community-organization STEM education initiatives. Unsolicited applications are not accepted, but that shouldn't stop you from contacting local management or the company's Community Involvement Department.

PROFILE: FirstEnergy, a “diversified energy company” headquartered in Akron, OH, is a funder of STEM education through both the Corporate Affairs & Community Involvement department and through the company’s charitable arm, the FirstEnergy Foundation. Which entity you approach for STEM education funding 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 primarily includes portions of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois and Michigan.

On the corporate side, FirstEnergy’s commitment to STEM education comes in the form of STEM Classroom Grants. These classroom grants provide up to $1,000 to educators at schools and youth groups for those serving the pre-K and K-12 student sets.

FirstEnergy seeks STEM classroom projects that are “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 (you’re likely to get extra notice if your proposed classroom project addresses electricity).

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 funds can be earmarked for professionals who visit the classroom).

The FirstEnergy Foundation is where you go to receive funding in somewhat larger dollar amounts. The caveat here is that the FirstEnergy Foundation will not directly support public or private schools for the pre-K or K-12 grade levels. But it’s a whole different ballgame at the college and university level, where the foundation gives enormous support to both private and public institutions.

But first, back to our younger STEM students: Pre-K, elementary, and secondary schools can find a way to receive FirstEnergy Foundation funding, if that support flows through a school district’s established nonprofit foundation. But far more of this foundation’s STEM education support of younger students is given to community-based organizations—again, in the communities in which its corporate side provides services and does business.

The foundation states that its education funding will foster “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 STEM education programming can be related to these efforts as well.

Because it generally doesn’t give huge amounts, the FirstEnergy Foundation wants to know that you’ve created additional partnerships and cultivated other funding resources to assure your K-12 education program’s financial health.

When it comes to foundation-based coffers, the greater amounts—and greater frequencies—are in the realm of higher education. This giving goes directly to general studies colleges and universities for STEM education programs, as well as STEM-centric schools and professional societies that support postsecondary STEM education. Grant amounts can range from $50 to $1 million, with most landing between $1,000 and $5,000.

The FirstEnergy Foundation does not accept unsolicited applications. 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 its Community Involvement Department.

While you’re making those inroads, you can also take a look at the grant application you will eventually fill out.


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