Partners in Education, which brings together representatives in business, industry and education, is continuing initiatives that assist local students in getting the education they need to be prepared for college and careers.

These initiatives are made possible through the support of companies such as PPL Corp., which has donated more than $288,000 to Partners in Education (PIE) since PIE's founding in 1999. Recently, PPL donated $13,000 to Partners in Education through Pennsylvania's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program.

Since PPL's beginnings as Pennsylvania Power and Light nearly 100 years ago, the company and its employees have been volunteering time and resources to help others in the Hazleton area.

Martha M. Herron, PPL regional community relations director for southern Luzerne and Schuylkill counties, said, "PPL is proud to continue its support of Partners in Education and PIE's many worthy programs for students in local school districts. Through Partners in Education, educators and the business community are united in the common goal of preparing students for the workforce and beyond."

Partners in Education Executive Director Edward Lyba, Ed.D., said, "PPL's steady devotion to education in Greater Hazleton is evident by their years of support of our program. This support is crucial to enabling us to provide numerous programs that benefit students in our middle and high schools."

PIE works with the business, industry and education sectors to help shape school curriculum and guide students in the right direction to ensure that graduates possess the skills to be productive employees in an ever-changing world. The organization has successfully implemented numerous programs that reach middle and high school students throughout the Hazleton, Weatherly and Crestwood school districts.

Through one of these programs, gifted students from Hazleton Area High School and Weatherly Area High School who are part of Project SAGE (Securing A Greener Environment) had the opportunity to learn more about nuclear energy. They visited PPL's nuclear power plant and environmental center near Berwick. They toured the wetlands at the environmental center, learning about the habitat and history of the area, including American Indians who lived along the river. They toured the perimeter of the power plant, learning about nuclear energy and careers in the nuclear power field.

"The trip proved very beneficial for the students, who learned a great deal of new information by being right at the site," said Weatherly gifted teacher Katie Leach. "They were surprised by the size of the towers and how much water is visible at the bottom of the towers."

Weatherly student Chris MacNeal said, "I enjoyed getting close to the building in the power plant and seeing how big the buildings were," while Weatherly student Morgan Gower described the trip as "interesting and informative."

Seventh-grade gifted students from Valley Elementary/Middle School said they were impressed by the amount of security at the power plant. They enjoyed seeing the power plant in person and learning about how electricity is made and how it gets to houses.

"The students got a much better understanding of nuclear energy by actually visiting the Berwick power plant than by just reading about it. The ideas we talked about in the classroom became real and concrete to them," said Valley Elementary/ Middle School gifted teacher Cathy Tombasco.

The students who are part of Project SAGE will continue to study energy and the environment. Advisers for Project SAGE are also working on developing a spring program that will feature speakers in the environmental field.

"Events and projects such as these can help students chart a future career path and explore areas they previously may not have considered," Lyba said.

In addition to Project SAGE, PIE holds a career awareness program that exposes approximately 900 eighth-grade students to presentations by local business and industry leaders who speak about various career paths. PPL representatives are among the featured speakers on Career Awareness Day each November.

PPL chemical technician Patty Sinex spoke with students at Hazleton Elementary/Middle School about the type of work that she does in PPL's chemical laboratory. They also discussed the educational requirements as well as basic life skills necessary to work at PPL.

"It's always a great day when you get to share with the students the types of careers that are here in the Hazleton area. They are really attentive and ask very insightful questions. While each speaker has specific skill sets that are unique to their position, all employers want people who are responsible, have a good work ethic and know how to communicate effectively. If you study hard, get good grades and continue your education either in trade school or college, you don't have to leave the area to find sustainable employment," she said.

Lyba said, "We established Career Awareness Day with the goal of showing local students that they can find a good job right here in Greater Hazleton and the program has been very successful in helping us work toward that goal. By hearing speakers in a variety of fields, the students learn about jobs they may not even have considered. They also learn the basic skills necessary to secure employment at any company."