Indiana Michigan Power donating $150K for Big Brothers Big Sisters science lab

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Fort Wayne-based Indiana Michigan Power on Jan. 23 donated $150,000 on behalf of the American Electric Power Foundation to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana for the agency’s first science lab.

The donation will go toward technology, materials and supplies for the AEP Foundation Science Lab, where Fort Wayne-based Big Brothers Big Sisters will offer enhanced science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs to at-risk youth of northeast Indiana and their volunteer mentors, according to a statement.

Toby Thomas, president and chief operating officer of Indiana Michigan Power, was to present the $150,000 donation to Josette Rider, the agency’s chief executive officer, and the agency’s board in honor of their Give Big. Save a Little. Campaign.

“The AEP Foundation and I&M believe in building strong communities, improving lives through education and playing an active role to enhance the communities we serve,” Thomas said in the statement. “Big Brothers Big Sisters will help make sure that more youth are exposed to STEM education at a younger age. This exposure improves their abilities to continue STEM education through high school and post-secondary programs, training them for careers in the promising and expanding fields of science, technology, engineering and math.”

The agency planned to announce the gift during a rebranding launch party Jan. 23 at the Clyde, 1808 Bluffton Road, Fort Wayne, that also showcased its new logo. The group, which serves northeast Indiana and southern Michigan, pairs children with adult mentors. About 71 percent of the children come from single-parent homes and 19 percent live in homes with a household income of less than $10,000, according to its 2017 annual report. It had nearly 1,600 matches, but another 345 children were on a waiting list.

This is the first science lab and STEM initiative for the agency, based at 1005 W. Rudisill Blvd., Fort Wayne. Funding will provide for an onsite lab, constructed and outfitted with the essential equipment, systems, technology and hardware to host workshops with their Big and Little matches. It will also address help with the local issues of developing and retaining qualified talent within the region, according to the statement.

“We want to provide exposure to science and STEM in a fun and unique way. STEM is something not often offered to our Littles. More than 33 percent of our Littles are ages 13-22 — a great age to introduce STEM. All of the children we provide services to are full of potential and when placed in a one-to-one learning environment with their Big, they display a unique desire and ability to learn,” said Josette Rider. “There is a strong need to help kids explore career options, and with the help of Indiana Michigan Power and the AEP Foundation, this initiative will not only provide a head start on educating but also ignite an interest in these fields, uncovering untapped talent within a demographic of children not significantly and purposefully exposed to STEM.”