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Duke Energy grant will help Livingstone students with STEM focus

By Laurie D. Willis

Livingstone College News Service

SALISBURY – A $50,000 grant from Duke Energy is expected to help strengthen Livingstone College’s signature Bridge Program while focusing on students majoring in STEM disciplines.

Students of color are typically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math, but the money from Duke Energy could go a long way toward changing that at Livingstone and will be used to create a Duke Scholars Program among the institution’s Bridge students.

“Livingstone College is committed to equipping its students with the STEM skills they need to be successful in college and in life. Duke Energy is proud to be a part of the good work being done at the college,” said Randy Welch, Duke Energy’s district manager in Rowan County.

Welch gave the money to Livingstone College President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr. recently during a reception sponsored by the college at The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture.

Jenkins implemented The Bridge Program when he arrived at Livingstone in February 2006. It is designed for students who graduate from high school with academic deficiencies and puts them through an intensive, six-week program that teaches reading, writing, mathematics, college skills and fitness and wellness.

Students are also taught etiquette and behavior modification and are exposed to cultural activities. For example, a few years ago Bridge students visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., as well as The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore. For many of the students, it was their first time in the nation’s capital.

“The Bridge Program has proven to be a unique educational opportunity, extended to late-blooming high school graduates,” Jenkins said. “The results of that invitation have proven to be highly impressive. The Bridge students are not only living up to their potential; they are defying the odds in their total college experience. The addition of a STEM focus is a welcomed opportunity to increase the number of students who would be drawn to these critically needed careers, and we are grateful to Duke Energy for supporting this effort.”

At Livingstone, 102 students are majoring in biology, 67 are majoring in psychology, 60 are majoring in computer information systems and 11 are majoring in math — numbers Jenkins wants to see dramatically increased.

According to a report released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, more students are earning degrees in STEM subjects. Jenkins wants Livingstone students to become part of that trend.

So do Dr. Carolyn Wilkerson Duncan, vice president for academic affairs, and Dr. Herman J. Felton, Jr., senior vice president, chief operating officer and vice president for institutional advancement.

“Graduates with STEM-related degrees are in great demand globally, and this trend will only increase as we go forward,” Duncan said. “Duke Energy’s investment in our Bridge Program will provide more opportunities for our students to increase the necessary prior knowledge to be successful in the STEM-related courses that we offer.”

Felton said Livingstone’s Bridge students have proven they can perform and compete on a college level, and many of them have an affinity for STEM subjects.

“We want to continue to be able to reward those students who society thought wouldn’t be able to compete, and we want to push them into STEM subjects and ensure they have added incentives to do well in those subjects,” Felton said. “Our partnership with Duke Energy will enable us to each year award four scholars, who are majoring in a STEM-related field, money toward their tuition. Likewise, it will enable Livingstone to continue demonstrating academic excellence.”

Jenkins said the partnership with Duke Energy is just another example of how Livingstone administrators are working diligently to provide the best education possible for the institution’s 1,300 students.

“In 2016 while some people, sadly, still question the relevance of historically black colleges and universities, I am thankful Duke Energy officials recognize not only their significance but also that investing in Livingstone students is a sage decision,” Jenkins said. “I am confident that several years from now some of our Duke Scholars will be in graduate school obtaining master’s degrees in STEM fields, or they will be making a difference by working in those professions, and we will have Duke Energy to thank, in part, for that.”

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