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The three college-bound students who earned scholarships offered by EDF Renewables were awarded their checks and honored by speakers at the Center for Energy Education Wednesday.

In addition to the accolades presented by the speakers, they were serenaded with a trumpet solo and song by Larry Gaines, affectionately known at the C4EE campus as Uncle Larry.

Before his musical selection, Gaines told the three students, “Do not forget to reach out to someone else to help them along their way.”

The students honored were:

Dwayne Burnett Jr. from Washington County Early College High School, who was awarded $1,500. He will attend North Carolina A&T University and major in electrical engineering.

Janine Williams, from Halifax County Early College, who was awarded $1,000. She will attend Fayetteville State University and major in business administration.

Machiya Arrington, from Halifax County Early College, who was awarded $500. She will attend North Carolina Central University and major in business administration.

Before the start of the ceremony, Amanda Mack of EDF Renewables said this was the second annual scholarship award. 

The students applied for the scholarships during a recent Clean Energy Job Fair held at William R. Davie Middle School. 

Mack said the company received between 30 and 50 applications. 

The three who received the scholarships, she said, “ … Had really well thought-out essays. They had a specific chosen career path and (wrote) how renewable energy was important to them.”

Mack said Burnett “had the most eloquent essay. He mentioned something about his career and then he also added that he wants to be an electrical engineer but he talked about the importance of technology and using technology for the betterment of animals, humans and plants.”

Mack said not only did Burnett have goals but he put a purpose for those goals in his essay.

She believes that Arrington and Williams' tenure as the first class of Radiant Rays was evidenced in their essays. “They are really gaining amazing knowledge here at C4EE.”

EDF sponsored the summer program and a portion of the internship. “I think it’s amazing to have a cohort of girls such as them. I kind of grew up through the energy industry in my career and it has been predominantly male-dominated. To see these young ladies learn about renewable energy and the career opportunities and me being able to lend my experience to be able to teach them about different opportunities is not just something you would get in a high school curriculum — it’s something you wouldn’t normally have if it wasn’t for C4EE. It’s amazing that C4EE can come up with a program like that and maybe those 10 girls can go share their experiences with 10 girls and it just builds upon each other.”

The program

Whitney Sessoms, workforce and education manager at C4EE, said, “We are here to celebrate three intellectual students who are on their way to college and they are part of a cleaner future.”

Sessoms said, “I could not be more proud of the kids and I’m so proud of EDF for investing in our community. Community involvement is what it’s all about.”

Ginny Lewis, president and CEO of the Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce, said, “It’s just so rewarding and we have to say another big thank you to EDF Renewables who are going to be giving out the scholarships today … and their continued support of our young people and their future by awarding these scholarships.”

During the scholarship presentation Mack said, “Working for EDF and with an energy advocate like the Center for Energy Education makes me so proud because they are out in the community educating students on what opportunities await them in the growing renewable energy industry.”

During the career fair in which the students could apply for the scholarships, Mack said, “The students got to learn about energy careers through many different booths. We hope that this scholarship will help lighten the financial load as these students start exploring their future opportunities.”

She offered her mentorship to all the recipients and said at the close of her remarks, “EDF strongly believes that when we invest in our students we are investing in a healthier economy and when we create a healthier economy it leads to a healthier community.”

Christopher Haywood, regional director for C4EE, thanked EDF for the partnership, support and vision on the impact of scholarships. 

“We wish you well on this special day,” Haywood said, congratulating each student individually. “We express exceeding joy and goodwill to you all on this journey called life. You are, as Tina Turner would say, simply the best. You are exceptional.”

Recipient remarks

“I would like to thank God because without him this would have never happened,” Arrington said. “I would like to thank my family for always pushing me and believing in me. The center has opened many doors and great opportunities for me.”

She said the center has taught her many things about renewable energy including the number of jobs available.

Williams thanked those who came to the event to congratulate the recipients. “I’d like to thank the center and EDF for awarding the scholarship and giving us the opportunity.”

Williams described her journey as a Radiant Ray as amazing. “We had the opportunity to travel. We won the Women of Distinction award by Our Minds and Our Voices, we’ve had the opportunity to meet with Governor Roy Cooper, Congressman Don Davis and EPA Administrator Michael Regan. I would definitely like to thank the center for all the opportunities you’ve offered.”

Burnett also thanked God for the opportunity. “With him anything is possible. I would like to thank my mother and the rest of my family who couldn’t be here today. I would like to thank the center and EDF for giving me the opportunity for this scholarship. I was praying I hoped I would get it. I did so I wanted to give thanks to everyone.”

Final remarks

Ann Keyes, vice chair of the Washington County Board of Commissioners, told the audience, “How proud we are of the youth in our community. You make all the difference in the world. We are mighty proud that EDF and the Center for Energy Education invested in you. I want you to go out into your community and invest in your college and bring it back to your community.”

James Pierce, vice chair of the center’s board of directors, said, “We are certainly proud of our young people. When you go away and get your education and begin your career, please consider the challenge of bringing it back to Halifax County. We need you in our community making us stronger than we are right now.”

C4EE Executive Director Mozine Lowe said, “This is truly an honor to host the second time around. This is very close to our hearts to find ways to encourage students to continue their education.”

Lowe described EDF as truly being a friend to the community. “We really like to work with companies that have a passion for the growth of counties. There are many companies around, there are many companies that come to the area but when you stop and look at the actions, the way they respond to the needs of the community — that says a lot.”