Empowering a Community of Conservation at the Wildlife Leadership Academy

Empowering a Community of Conservation at the Wildlife Leadership Academy

Being part of the communities we serve goes beyond delivering safe, reliable electricity. Through PPL Foundation Empowering Communities Grants, we support local programs focused on environmental stewardship and education, economic development and/or workforce development. 

The Wildlife Leadership Academy in Lock Haven recently received a grant from the PPL Foundation. The academy’s using this funding for its programming, allowing students to have more printed materials and hands-on learning opportunities in its field schools. 

Now in its 18th year, the academy hosts five different field schools during the summer. It has held 57 field schools and graduated over 1,000 alumni across Pennsylvania and 13 other states. 

“We aim to engage and empower high school-aged youth to become conservation ambassadors,” said Sara Mueller, Executive Director of the Wildlife Leadership Academy. “Once they’ve engaged with us for a week, they go back into their communities and do outreach, service projects, creative arts projects, engaging with the media – really having an impact.” 

The academy welcomes 100 new students every year, developing conservation and leadership skills through hands-on teaching. The students are broken into teams and led by a peer mentor who took the course the previous summer. 

“The a-ha moment is the most rewarding piece for me,” Mueller said. “Students come to us with an idea of what conservation and leadership are, and we really engage them over the course of the week. We don’t just watch the student change, but we then watch how they change their communities.” 

The students say that the 40+ hours they spend at the academy is a transformative experience. 

“The experience has allowed me opportunities and I have been impacted in many ways,” said Sarah Klecanda, a former student. “It’s important that we teach others to protect our natural world; education will help us toward our goal of conservation.” 

As the academy gears up for another wave of students, its beginning a new program that will use fly fishing as the hook for interested conservationists. Mueller hopes this program, called the Stepping Stones Program, serves as a stepping stone toward a future of possibilities for the academy. 

“We can take that recreational aspect and apply it to several other outlets like bird watching and canoeing,” she said. “We’re also looking to expand the opportunities that we already have for our alumni. So many people learn by doing, so we give them the book knowledge and the opportunity to apply that knowledge in the field. We’re creating conservationists, but we’re also creating leaders.” 

Empowering Employment Through the Wayne County Community Foundation

Empowering Employment Through the Wayne County Community Foundation

Being part of the communities we serve goes beyond delivering safe, reliable electricity. Through PPL Foundation Empowering Communities Grants, we support local programs focused on environmental stewardship and education, economic development and/or workforce development. 

The Wayne County Community Foundation, located in Honesdale, is a recent PPL Foundation grant recipient. The Community Foundation is allocating these dollars toward supporting its Worker Crisis Relief fund. For 30 years, the organization has used resources from the community to help those in need. The Worker Crisis Relief fund is one of almost 150 different funds established to address areas of need. 

“Our goal is to improve the quality of life for everyone here in Wayne County,” said Ryanne Jennings, president and CEO of the Wayne County Community Foundation. “That involves addressing poverty at a systemic level. 

Located in rural northeast Pennsylvania, Wayne County presents challenges for employees with transportation issues. The Worker Crisis Relief fund has mostly helped cover expenses for repairs and down payments on used vehicles. The Community Foundation works with the Wayne Pike Workforce Alliance to find the best solution for funding. 

A car is an essential item in this area,” Jennings said. “It’s not only essential for working, it also keeps families in their homes and provides food security.” 

“This fund has been a valuable resource for several community members who have faced a crisis and needed immediate assistance,” said Katheryne Hait, executive director of the Wayne Pike Workforce Alliance. “By partnering with the Community Foundation, we have been able to help these individuals bounce back quickly and regain stability in their lives.” 

The fund has helped 10 people address transportation issues since it began over a year ago. Jennings says she hopes the foundation can expand in the coming years to continue to meet the evolving variety of needs of the community. 

The word ‘empowering’ is a strong one; that’s what this Worker Crisis Relief fund does,” Jennings said. “We want to say that, as a community, and PPL is included in that community, we are here to support people when they need it the most. The empowerment is a big reason why we sought this funding.” 

Feeding Education: Empowering Communities Through The Edible Classroom

Feeding Education: Empowering Communities Through The Edible Classroom

Being part of the communities we serve goes beyond delivering safe, reliable electricity. Through PPL Foundation Empowering Communities Grants, we support local programs focused on environmental stewardship and education, economic development and/or workforce development.

The Edible Classroom, a recent PPL foundation grant recipient, is using this funding to expand its operations in two districts. The Lancaster-based nonprofit uses the garden as a tool of educational enrichment. It started as an elementary school volunteer project between Beth Horst, Co-Founder and Director of School District of Lancaster Partnerships and Grace Julian, Executive Director, and Project Manager for Columbia High School’s garden.

There’s tremendous value in what it does for children – educating them through a mix of physical and mental education, bringing the community together – and the team hoped to take this to a broader audience. “And that’s how we became The Edible Classroom.” Horst said.

Since 2017, the organization has formed 15 gardens across three districts. Each garden is an interactive outdoor learning space where students build, tend to and grow a garden. The produce is then supplied to the community for consumption.

“The meaningful engagement with the kids keeps us all very engaged and passionate about what we do,” Julian said. “Kids from across the learning spectrum, even those who say that the classroom is not their favorite place to be, come alive outside in the garden.”

With PPL’s funding, lessons are held during the school day that incorporate STEM standards, healthy living, composting and environmental stewardship. The Edible Classroom says the funding helps it make more of an impact in the community.

One of these gardens is at Columbia High School’s Hill Campus. Since receiving the grant last year, the organization has been able to develop and expand space behind the school.

“This takes learning outside of the typical classroom environment,” said Kendall Pankake, the Principal of the Hill Campus. “Our younger and older students have enjoyed being a part of building the garden from the ground up.”

A photo of the finished garden funded by PPL.

Students from Columbia High School’s Hill Campus expanded and cultivated this garden behind the school with funding from PPL.

The program’s success has sprouted a future full of opportunities. The Edible Classroom is looking at options to both amplify its involvement with the schools it currently serves, while looking forward to the possibility of expanding to other schools and districts.

“We’re so thankful for the funding from PPL because we believe so deeply in the value of the work we’re doing,” Horst said. “We see the ripple effect of growing food in so many areas – it’s the growing, eating, amending soil, the environmental impacts and tying in the community. The investment has helped make a mark, and we look forward to deepening that investment and making it more beneficial for the schools and the communities.”

The Edible Classroom’s goals are at the root of our Empowering Community grants. We strive to help those who help others, and through the power of education, the seeds of community are being planted in Lancaster County.

Nuclear subsidy proposal in PA: Why we’re speaking out

Nuclear subsidy proposal in PA: Why we’re speaking out

At PPL Electric Utilities, we’ve been watching with great interest the debate surrounding the future of nuclear power.

Proposed legislation currently circulating within the Pennsylvania General Assembly would require electric utilities to purchase as much as 50 percent of customer demand from nuclear energy as part of a new mandate under Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act.

We’re asking the General Assembly to seriously consider the broad impact and the unintended ramifications this aggressive proposal would have on all of our 1.4 million customers.

The conversation surrounding how to achieve long-term market-based solutions to reducing carbon is essential to Pennsylvania’s energy future. Our parent company, Pennsylvania-based PPL Corporation, supports efforts to advance a cleaner energy future and has committed reducing its carbon emissions 70 percent from 2010 levels by 2050.  Additionally, PPL Electric Utilities has begun to undertake several projects that promote greater incorporation and growth of carbon-free energy sources, such as solar, onto our grid.

No one disputes that nuclear energy is carbon-free, but don’t confuse narrow nuclear subsidy proposals with efficient and effective economy-wide, market-based efforts to move the state toward a low carbon future.

This proposal, if adopted, will make Pennsylvania less competitive, impacting every electric customer in Pennsylvania and raising the average price of electricity in the state for years to come. We have estimated that our customers, alone, will pay $140 million more each year to rescue a single energy source that already benefits from an existing robust market.

If electricity customers are asked to bear this burden, customers should expect, and legislators should require that regulators have oversight. As a regulated utility, PPL Electric Utilities is required to open its books to the state’s Public Utility Commission and demonstrate a financial need before we can adjust the rates we charge to customers. Nuclear plant owners who are asking our state government to give them customer-funded financial assistance should be required to do the same. Recent draft proposals do not include this much needed requirement and also provide a subsidy for plants that are profitable.

This issue has been the focus of limited discussions for well over two years. It is only recently that proponents have turned up the heat on the General Assembly to act swiftly. Lawmakers should not fall for the “crisis” label that has been intentionally created by the bill proponents.

We’re asking lawmakers to take their time and properly vet this issue through the process — hold hearings, call in all stakeholders and most importantly, demand numbers from those advocating for this measure. Consider seeking independent audits or financial verification from outside resources available to the General Assembly.

In the end, lawmakers need to strongly consider whether hiding a nuclear bailout in customers’ electricity bills is necessary and the best course to moving Pennsylvania forward.