Central State gets $30K Duke Energy grant to support student success

Duke Energy Foundation gifted $30,000 to Central State University as part of its ongoing effort to invest in opportunities for students in Ohio and Kentucky.

Central State is a historically Black university in Wilberforce, Ohio, near Dayton. It’s the only public HBCU in Ohio.

Plans are for half of the grant dollars to support career development opportunities for students through the Center of Excellence for HBCU Corporate Engagement. The rest is going to scholarships for students in need.

“We are thrilled that Duke Energy is joining us to support student access, success, and completion,” said Tiffiney Gray, vice president of Institutional Advancement at Central State. She’s also executive director for the Central State University Foundation.

“Tuition support through scholarships closes the financial gap for tuition assistance, ensuring students can maintain focus on classwork and academic achievement,” she continued. “Linking scholarship support with career development and wraparound services helps prevent student withdrawals and supports retention and graduation.”

Central State University campus.
Central State University’s campus

Duke Energy leadership called the financial support to Central State a component of its broader strategy to invest in HBCUs across the country. It’s doing so through a mixture of grants and sponsorship of programs focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

“Our communities benefit from a growing talent pipeline of diverse, skilled workers who bring new and innovative ways of thinking to the table,” said Amy Spiller, president of Duke Energy Ohio and Kentucky. “HBCUs are cultivating their students today to be the leaders of tomorrow’s workforce.”

The Central State grant was made possible because of the Duke Energy Foundation, the arm of the utility company responsible for charitable giving. It provides more than $30 million annually to philanthropic efforts in parts of the country where Duke Energy provides service.

Duke Energy Ohio/Kentucky provides electric service to 900,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in a 3,000-square-mile service area across both states. It also offers natural gas service to 550,000 customers across 2,650 square miles between Ohio and Kentucky.

Grant funding comes from Duke Energy shareholders.

Amy Spiller, Duke Energy
Amy Spiller

Timing for the grant announcement should come as no surprise as students and educators at Central State and colleges, universities and schools across the country prepare to return to the classroom.

The Duke Energy Foundation accepts grant applications for up to $20,000 per initiative throughout the year on a rolling basis in areas including community revitalization, social justice and climate action. But a focal point over the years has been education. Investments have gone to traditional scholarships as well as mentoring and career development programming.

Over the last five years, the foundation has distributed $1.2 million to local organizations for workforce development. That includes $265,000 in June.

Learning Grove, in Northern Kentucky, received $30,000 to advance NaviGo Scholars and the NKY College & Career Connector Program. Duke Energy also partnered with Learning Grove over the summer to host a Women in Energy STEM Camp for high school juniors and seniors.

This was the first year of the camp, which raised awareness about available STEM careers, including opportunities within Duke Energy.

Duke Energy Foundation also invested a combined $30,000 – $15,000 each – to Adopt-a-Class mentoring programs in Greater Cincinnati and Black Achievers, which empower Black students through education and supporting their efforts to attend college.

Other regional programs to receive funds in recent years include Gateway Community & Technical College, Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative, iSpace, Boone County Schools and Northern Kentucky University.

The NAACP branch of Northern Kentucky and Hispanic Chamber Cincinnati USA have received money from Duke Energy over the past decade to award scholarships to students attending local colleges.

“By supporting the important work of local students and educators, we are laying the groundwork for a successful workforce of the future,” Spiller said.

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