Blue Ridge Energy Celebrates 25 Years of Bright Ideas Grants with Awards for Ashe and Wilkes Educators

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December 5, 2019
Blue Ridge Energy Celebrates 25 Years of Bright Ideas Grants with Awards for Ashe and Wilkes Educators


Photo L to R: Kelly Pipes, Wilkes Early College High School; Thelma Kastl, West Wilkes Middle School; Kevin Miller, Westwood Elementary; Brian Armstrong, Ashe Early College; David Boone, Blue Ridge board member; Holly McClure, Westwood Elementary; Tania Rollins, Blue Ridge Elementary; Colleen Dixon, Mountain View Elementary; James Young, Blue Ridge board member; Ruth Turnmire, Mountain View Elementary; Sara Lambert, Westwood Elementary; Tamara Kearley, Blue Ridge Elementary; Dawn Richardson, Ashe County Middle; Kay Bare, Millers Creek Elementary; Tasha Rountree, Blue Ridge Energy Ashe district manager; Stephen Simms, Ashe County High School; Rebecca Mastin, Millers Creek Elementary.


West Jefferson, North Carolina (December 5, 2019) – Exciting, hands-on learning projects are coming to local classrooms thanks to $15,798 in Bright Ideas grants awarded recently by Blue Ridge Energy to local educators during a special dinner honoring eleven winning teachers.

Blue Ridge Energy is celebrating 25 years of the Bright Ideas grant program by providing $50,000 in grants to local teachers making an impact in their classroom through innovative learning projects. Bright Ideas is an academic grants program sponsored by Blue Ridge Energy in conjunction with North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation and its 26 other member electric cooperatives. Bright Ideas grants help further traditional academic learning by funding innovative scholastic projects that go beyond available school funding.

Ashe County grant winners are:

Brian Armstrong of Ashe Early College for “Forensic Science DNA Project.” This $1,448 grant will supply materials for a DNA forensic sciences lab.

Colleen Dixon of Mountain View Elementary for “Booked for Lunch.” The grant for $827 will help students establish a lunch-time book club in the school media center and also promotes volunteerism.

Dawn Richardson of Ashe County Middle for “History of a Town Through Barn Quilting”  This $685 grant will help students research the local history of Lansing and create two barn quilts for the Lansing Creeper Trail Park. 

Holly McClure of Westwood Elementary for “Look What We Do.” The grant for $1,000 will be used to provide Lego robot kits for 21st century skills curriculum.

Kevin Miller of Westwood Elementary for “Sync It, Swipe It, See It”” The grant for $1,148 will provide students with health measurements, such as steps per day and the movement patterns they take – promoting a healthier lifestyle.

Tamara Kearley of Blue Ridge Elementary for “SPRKing Up Mathematics with Spheros.” This $1,876 grant will help students better understand geometry by using Spheros robots to draw shapes based on specific measurements. 

Tania Rollins of Blue Ridge Elementary for “Books and Beyond.” The $1,997 grant will promote digital literacy by providing e-books based on curriculum.   

Stephen Simms of Ashe County High for “Gentlemen Check Your Engines.” The $1,192 grant will help students in automotive classes troubleshoot engine problems using a standalone computerized engine system.

Wilkes County grant winners are:

Karyn Church of Millers Creek Elementary for “Genius Hour – Where Passion Meets Creativity!” This $1,990 grant will help establish a learning commons area for a new program allowing students to study their interests and passions.

Kelly Pipes of Wilkes Early College High School for “There’s More to Bees Than Honey.” The grant for $464 will help students extend their current studies of honey bees and the products honey creates.

Thelma Kastl of West Wilkes Middle for “Rescue Me.” This grant of $2,000 will allow students to design robots that assist in search and rescue techniques.

Blue Ridge Energy received 122 applications for the 2019-2020 school year from schools in its service area of Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, Wilkes and Avery counties. Funds totaling $50,000 were awarded to 41 classrooms to benefit hundreds of local students. To date, Blue Ridge Energy has awarded more than $519,000 in Bright Ideas classroom grants that has impacted over 100,000 local students and teachers. Blue Ridge Energy is part of several North Carolina electric cooperatives providing Bright Ideas grants. Together, they have provided more than $12.2 million for classroom projects impacting over 2.3 million students in North Carolina.

Blue Ridge Energy is a member-owned electric cooperative serving some 76,000 members in Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, Avery, Alexander and Wilkes counties.  To learn more about the Bright Ideas grants program, visit Blue Ridge Energy’s web site at or contact your local Blue Ridge Energy office.