By Tim Ryan

The Hampton Roads region, a vibrant hub of innovation and entrepreneurship, is witnessing a groundbreaking development in the field of education and renewable energy technology. BayPort Credit Union, in collaboration with other leading organizations in Newport News, Virginia, has inaugurated a pioneering Renewable Energy Technology Program for high school students at the Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) Advanced Technology Center. This initiative, a beacon of progress in our community, was made possible by the $500,000 Accelerating Change Together Grant, awarded to the Virginia Beach Education Foundation in 2022.

This ambitious program embodies the region’s commitment to nurturing young talent in emerging fields, particularly renewable energy technologies. It’s a direct response to the regional need for a skilled workforce pipeline, addressing both educational and workforce development. The VBCPS Advanced Technology Center, renowned for preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), will facilitate this program. Annually, about 40 students will engage in courses like Renewable Energy Technologies I and II, gaining valuable skills and knowledge.

The impact of this program in Hampton Roads extends beyond just the classroom. The grant funding has enabled the creation of a specially equipped classroom, complete with hands-on simulators and comprehensive curriculum resources. This environment is designed to foster experiential learning, where students can immerse themselves in the practical aspects of renewable energy technologies. The program also encompasses instructor training, materials for elementary and middle school outreach, and an innovative solar learning pavilion at the school. These elements collectively ensure a holistic educational experience, preparing students for future challenges and opportunities.

BayPort President/CEO Jim Mears expressed his enthusiasm, noting the significance of this day for innovation and growth in Hampton Roads. This investment by BayPort goes beyond financial contributions; it’s an investment in the future of the region, nurturing the next generation of innovators and problem-solvers. Dr. Donald Robertson Jr., acting superintendent, echoed this sentiment. He highlighted the unique opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in renewable energy technologies, positioning them to earn industry credentials and contribute to sustainability projects.

This development is more than just an educational program; it’s a testament to the collaborative spirit and forward-thinking mindset of Hampton Roads. It’s a promise of a sustainable, technologically advanced future, where our young minds are equipped with the skills and knowledge to lead and innovate. As this program unfolds, it’s poised to become a model of excellence in STEM education, reinforcing the region’s reputation as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.