BrightIdeas

Celebrating 20 years of Bright Ideas grants

At North Carolina’s electric cooperatives, we believe there is no more important investment than in our state’s youth. That’s why for the past 20 years, the electric co-ops have offered Bright Ideas education grants to Tar Heel teachers in K-12 classrooms across the state.

Bright Ideas grants provide funding for innovative, classroom-based projects that would otherwise not be possible. Since 1994, we have touched the lives of more than 1.6 million students who have participated in 8,800 Bright Ideas projects, and given out more than $9.1 million.

Applications are being accepted through September. Final application deadlines can vary, depending on the sponsoring electric cooperative in your area.

Congratulations to our Bright Ideas Tar Heel Teacher of the Week!

Mrs. Pam Nolen
Crest Middle School
Shelby, N.C.

Rutherford EMC, based in Forest City, is pleased to nominate as Teacher of the Week an educator with a truly innovative approach to helping her students see science in action: Mrs. Pam Nolen of Crest Middle. Her Bright Ideas project “Atmospheric Weather Balloon – Design, Launch, Recover, Analyze” launched a bright red weather balloon with a GPS tracker and video camera, and students tracked its journey in real time and collected bird's-eye footage of the stratosphere.
Pam Nolen


“Pam instills a desire in her students to learn about science by coming up with great hands-on projects to bring classroom studies to life for her students,” said Dirk Burleson, vice president of member and corporate services at Rutherford EMC. “She is an enthusiastic teacher who genuinely cares about her students’ well-being, and it’s been a pleasure to partner with her through the Bright Ideas grant program.”

Mrs. Nolen will be recognized as a Tar Heel Teacher of the Week on the radio broadcast of the UNC vs. Georgia Tech game on Saturday, Oct. 18. She will also receive four tickets to a Tar Heel football game and a plaque commemorating her achievement.

North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives make possible the Tar Heel Teacher of the Week and Bright Ideas education grant programs in support of education and local communities. Only 26 exceptional North Carolina teachers will be honored as Teachers of the Week this year. For more information about Rutherford EMC, click here. For more information about the co-ops’ commitment to community, click here.


See how Bright Ideas impacts teachers and students by watching our 20th anniversary celebration video:


This year, the cooperatives expect to award about $600,000 to educators at schools across the state for projects in a variety of disciplines including music, art, history, reading, science, career-planning and information technology. To find out if your school is eligible or to determine the final application deadline in your area, click the “Search for My School” tab above.

Applications are accepted each year from April through mid-September, and the program offers a convenient and simple online application process. The final deadline depends on your school’s sponsoring electric cooperative. Educators may apply as individuals or as a team for the grants, which are awarded in a competitive evaluation process by individual electric cooperatives throughout the state.

North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives are committed to the communities they serve. Find about more about the cooperatives’ community programs here.