RALEIGH - An organization of black energy professionals is reaching out to increase minorities in the fields of science and math.
The N.C. American Association of Blacks in Energy keeps in touch with young scholars beyond the ceremonial grasp-shake-grin snapshots of plaque and scholarship awards.
Of the group's six 2007 NCAABE scholarship winners, two went on to win regional and national honors. Four winners were among the 100 young scholars who attended the third annual NCAABE Youth-Day, "Powering Your Future," at the Progress Energy building in downtown Raleigh.
"Energy is a very unique industry," said Pamela Hoyles, NCAABE vice president and a PSNC Energy operations assistant. "This is a way to keep the pipeline going because we're drying up. We don't have that many blacks in key positions in the energy field, from engineers to executive vice presidents. It is important for us to have a seat at the policy-making table when energy issues are being discussed."
Hoyles believes the NCAABE "hit a home run last year" when local scholarship winner James Hill won a regional award, and Lamar Hill (no relation to James Hill) won national honors.
Lamar Hill, of Efland, said the NCAABE initiatives "bull's-eyed" his passion for engineering and energy. The conference boosts chances for success, he said, with insightful discussions and presenters whose expertise enhances textbook education. "It's a good networking opportunity, too," said Hill, a computer engineering major at N.C. State.
Guidance counselor Sharon Peele considers the NCAABE's outreach a godsend for students at Weldon High in Weldon, N.C.
"We have such limited opportunities in our area for students to enrich themselves," she said. "This is an opportunity no one should pass up."
Jessica Rogers of Greensboro and William "Zack" Credle of Windsor, N.C., seized the opportunity, and each won a $1,500 NCAABE scholarship. They attend NCSU. "It's always good to have an organization of minorities working to get more minorities into their field," said Rogers, 18, who is majoring in paper science and engineering, and chemical engineering. "It's a good way to mentor someone; to show us the way to a career or show us what to do in different professional situations."
Credle, 18, notes a mutual benefit of sitting alongside other black students with similar academic interests, soaking in tools gleaned from the experiences and the advice of professionals who also look like them.
"They're helping us and, at the same time, we're helping them," said Credle, a freshman majoring in electrical and computer engineering. "We see them, we see ourselves."
By Lori D.R. Wiggins
Published Nov. 7, 2007