A previous version of a Blue Ridge Community College “Starter Pack” is displayed on a table in August 2021. This "Starter Pack" pictures a branded backpack, t-shirt, water bottle, headphones, charger, pen, and planner.

Duke Energy Funds College “Starter Packs” to Aid Adult and Minority Learners

Featured Photo: A previous version of a Blue Ridge Community College “Starter Pack” is displayed on a table in August 2021.

Marketing and Communications Department

On Nov. 11, Duke Energy chose the Blue Ridge Community College Educational Foundation to receive a $5,000 grant to fund an initiative supporting adult and minority learners.

The grant will be used to purchase branded backpacks full of tools helpful for college students. These “Starter Packs” are designed to give students a smooth start to the semester and are part of the College’s ongoing intentional outreach to specific student populations. The items include power banks for portable charging, wireless earbuds, agenda books, water bottles, thumb drives and more.

“We are grateful for the support of Duke Energy as we work to make higher education accessible to adult students who juggle many priorities and challenges,” said Dr. Laura B. Leatherwood, president of Blue Ridge Community College. “Our goal is to create opportunities for students of all backgrounds by equipping them with new skills and credentials for the future. This improves the lives of not only our graduates, but everyone in our community as we build a stronger, more capable workforce.”

Blue Ridge Community College previously assisted students with Starter Packs in the spring of 2021 as part of the N.C. Reconnect initiative focused on recruiting and retaining adult learners. The packs were distributed by Blue Ridge’s success coaches who worked to mentor and coach students throughout their educational journeys. As a result of the broader initiative, Blue Ridge’s adult learner population increased by 41% over the previous year, and overall enrollment increased by 9%. By the spring of 2022, the College’s African-American population increased by 14.85%, and Hispanic enrollment increased by 19.67%.

Duke Energy’s Local Government and Community Relations Manager Craig DeBrew shared the grant decision with the Educational Foundation through an encouraging email.

“With workforce development a priority in all sectors of our economy, your outreach to adult learners and under-represented students is certainly important work,” he wrote. “We are proud to help support your Success Coach program and the idea to provide ‘Starter Packs’ to help students make their college experience successful.”