What You Should Know about Alcoa Foundation's OPTIONS

The Alcoa Foundation granted $30,000 to a summer program called OPTIONS, designed to expose kids in grades 8 through 12 the vocational possibilities in the fields of engineering and computer science. The money will subsidize scholarships for these middle and high school students who finish the OPTIONS program and go on to attend The University of Evansville. The program allows students to "stay on UE's campus in a residence hall, complete hands-on projects, take classes taught by UE faculty members, and meet local professional women in the engineering and computer science fields," Chicago's 14 News said.

Alcoa Warrick Operations is Alcoa Foundation's umbrella company. Royce Haws, Warrick Operations' Primary Metals Division company area manager, emphasized the necessity of programs such as OPTIONS, which understand the nature of our changing economy and respond in kind, helping to keep our nation's workforce "globally competitive — investments in science, technology, engineering, and math are a key community and business need."

Before Alcoa's grant, students accepted to the University of Evansville after completing OPTIONS received scholarships worth $1,250. Those applying for Evansville's College of Engineering and Computer Science also receive first preference for a variety of other financial aid options. For a school that charges $30,566 in tuition for full-time students, the extra money from Alcoa will certainly provide an enormous benefit for students in the OPTIONS program.

With assets totaling around a half billion dollars, Alcoa Foundation is one of the single largest corporate foundations in the country. Two of their biggest philanthropic focuses include "exit grants," which go to support communities affected by Alcoa's decisions to close or reduce company operations in the area. For example, they gave more than $70,000 to Badin, North Carolina, after they closed a smelting plant. They also give money to organizations such as the Red Cross for disaster relief, typically in the range of $10,000 to $25,000 per-event.

Other ALCOA educational grants include $10,000 to a science competition, The Intel Science Fair, and $25,000 to the 2012 Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK). The foundation's press releases page conveys a forward-looking interest in college readiness, particularly for students with curiosity and talent in mathematics, engineering, and the sciences.