Wednesday, April 17, 2024

SWEPCO announces $50K AEP Foundation grant for next generation of Texarkana leaders

by BIZ Magazine

Leaders at a Texarkana, Arkansas’ non-profit believe we can all be heroes. Their program received a boost, recently, and can now move forward with a new program to support young people by helping them develop leadership skills.

American Electric Power (AEP) Foundation, at the request of Southwestern Electric Power (SWEPCO) awarded $50,000 to help launch the Washington Leadership Academy. The parent organization, I Am A Hero, Inc., will oversee the implementation of the award.

“It’s inspiring to see their work in our communities to help educate our next generation of leaders and heroes,” said SWEPCO External Affairs Manager Jennifer Harland. “They are a true champion at heart. Working alongside the Washington Leadership Academy, they have implemented innovative programs to foster a positive learning environment for these deserving children.”

Founded on the principle of leveling the playing field for all kids, I Am A Hero, Inc has a track record as a beacon of hope for disadvantaged youth in Texarkana.

“It is with sincere gratitude that I extend these words of appreciation to the AEP Foundation and SWEPCO for their decision to award the Washington Community Development Center with the community grant,” said Executive Director and Founder of We Are Washington, Donnie Reid. “This sizeable donation is an investment in the future of our town: today’s youth. Washington’s primary mission is to cultivate leaders, and SWEPCO’s generosity will undoubtedly contribute to the growing of character, the teaching of morals, and promotion of self-discipline—all of which constitute the attributes of any good leader.”

We Are Washington is located on the campus of the former Booker T. Washington High School. Washington High School was one of the first in the area to serve African American students before desegregation. The last graduating class was in 1969. In early 2022, the Texarkana, Arkansas School District sold the historic campus to the nonprofit for the creation of the Washington Community Development Center.

Today, We Are Washington houses 12 different nonprofit organizations and serves as a hub for classes, resources, meals, programs, community events, and because of this latest grant award, a newly created leadership program. Everything at the community center is free to the public. Equipped with a recreational center and academic center, organizational leaders believe the services are critical to help anchor the community with needed extracurriculars and leadership opportunities.

“On behalf of the Washington community development center and its parent affiliate, I Am A Hero, Inc., we are honored to receive this community grant from SWEPCO,” exclaimed We Are Washington Staff, Antony Robinson. “We look forward to building a strong and lasting relationship which will undoubtedly produce the future leaders from our youth here in the greater Texarkana area. The Washington Leadership Academy will be a place where leaders are born.”

The Washington Leadership Academy will leverage the grant by providing one-to-one technology to these students, bridging the digital divide, and offering scholarships to the most deserving students. Additionally, regular classes at the Washington Leadership Academy will also be offered.

The inaugural leadership academy program will serve 20 students whose leadership skills will be fully developed.

“An overall enriching learning experience for the students is a great step toward closing the inequality gap,” Harland added. “The AEP Foundation’s trust in I Am A Hero, Inc as a catalyst for change further cements SWEPCO and AEP Foundation’s resolve to eradicate social and racial prejudices through education.”

The grant is part of the AEP Foundation’s Delivering on the Dream: Social and Racial Justice grant program, which is a five-year, $5 million commitment to fund organizations across its 11-state service area whose programming is committed to positive social and racial justice outcomes.

“It is because of SWEPCO’s commitment to the values held by the Washington Community Development Center that we will be presented with more opportunities and resources for our students to develop into outstanding members of society,” Reid said. “Our team at Washington is eager to further our partnership with SWEPCO to promote the betterment of the community and its citizens, and we are profoundly appreciative of their altruistic decision to support our endeavors to give back to improve the place we call home.”

Community partners banding together under one great community center is as bold and beautiful as the mural adorning the wall in the courtyard.

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