NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A Hampton Roads organization was awarded half a million dollars to make a big difference in the community.

Three Newport News businesses teamed up to create the Accelerating Change Together Grant. This year’s focus was education and workforce development.

The Virginia Beach Education Foundation thought they were just giving a tour of the Advanced Technology Center at Virginia Beach City Public Schools, but instead, 10 On Your Side was there when they got a big surprise!

Bayport Credit Union, HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding and Ferguson Enterprises were there to award the check with some Virginia Beach students on hand.

The money is going to help support the school district’s addition of a new two-year, half-day advanced technology center program to study renewable energy.

The grant will help build a workforce pipeline for students to enter emerging career fields, like off shore wind power, solar energy and electric cars.

“The money will be used to buy trainers, fund outreach programs, kits, materials, all the furniture and fixtures to set up the new class rooms and have that ready to open in the fall,” said Virginia Beach City Public Schools Director of Technical and Career Education Sara Lockett. “It allows us to offer some really state of the art opportunities for students to learn.”

The Virginia Beach education foundation says this money will go a long way.

“It allows teachers to do what they need to do and not have to worry because doing things costs dollars, its time, energy and effort,” said Virginia Beach Education Foundation President Kevin Hill. “By receiving the grant and distributing it now these teachers are going to be able to help students go one step further and its going to help Virginia Beach City Public Schools be a step above.”

The committee says Virginia Beach Education Foundation’s application was chosen based on its ability to show a sustainable project plan to impact the community.

The program will work specifically to:  

  • Connect grades 9-12 to solar, offshore wind, and electric vehicles trade certificate programs
  • Replace the Fiber Optic program that was recently retired at the ATC
  • Partner with the energy employers focused on solar and wind technologies in our region
  • Frame guidelines from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners

72 organizations started the application process and 27 completed it.

Bayport Credit Union CEO Jim Mears says a lot of great Hampton Roads non-profit organizations applied.

“There are tons of them that are doing such good things in our community,” said Bayport Credit Union CEO, Jim Mears. “This one just kind of stood out, from what I understand I didn’t read them I wasn’t the judge. I understand how well written this one was and how it just hit home for what’s going to happen in the community.”

The renewable energy technology program is expected to be up and running for Virginia Beach City Public Schools students in the fall of 2023.