Local Students Explore STEM Careers at Youth Energy Academy

Local high school students recently had the chance to explore careers in STEM fields at the annual Youth Energy Academy, held, in part, at OUC. Sponsored by the American Association of Blacks in Energy, the Youth Energy Academy is a career exploration program that seeks to expose Black students in grades 8-12 to careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. The event included demonstrations, tours, activities and career information.




Students of the Youth Energy Academy (YEA) took a high-level course in power production at Stanton Energy Center (SEC) earlier this month, highlighting the annual summer program’s return to in-person, hands-on learning.

Outfitted with hard hats and protective eyewear, about 50 local middle and high school students toured OUC’s flagship power plant where they saw the enormity of energy generating machinery and heard the deafening sounds they produce while sending hundreds of megawatts of electricity onto the grid. The students also were exposed to the OUC-sponsored Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program and career opportunities with their hometown utility, given an overview on how OUC delivers safe drinking water, and introduced to the Tiny Green Home, a portable 200-square-foot showcase of sustainable living.

It was held in person for the first time since 2019. Locally, YEA participants split time over two days at OUC, Duke Energy and Siemens Energy facilities. OUC has supported the program for eight consecutive years.

“We hope this program encourages these kids to realize the value of STEM education,” said Corey Johnson, Supervisor of Meter Operations and chair of the OUC chapter of the AABE. “This is one of the most impactful programs the AABE does.”

Johnson expressed relief to seeing the YEA resume active, hands-on learning again after the last two summer programs were held virtually due to the pandemic.

“This program is so much more effective when we can engage the kids face-to-face,” he said.

After touring the main power plant building and ascending to its rooftop where they could see features on SEC’s 3,200-acre site, such as cooler towers, reservoirs, solar fields and wooded wildlife sanctuary, the students participated in quizzes following presentations by OUC personnel. Those who answered questions correctly won prizes.

Interactive sessions included:

  • SEC safety overview, presented by Sr. Safety Coordinators Jason Drayton and Brad Leininger.
  • A demonstration on OUC’s water treatment process, presented by Christine Misner, Sr. Chemist, and James Houston, Water System Operator.
  • The OUC-sponsored Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program, presented by Alandus Sims, Strategic Partnership & Projects Manager.
  • OUC career opportunities, presented by Talent Acquisition Partners Erika De La Rosa and Kerry Kolpin.

“I think the water demonstration was really interesting,” said Lasean Scott, who’s entering the eighth grade at Greenwood Middle School in Lake Mary. “I didn’t know OUC had anything to do with drinking water.”

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