Polk State and Duke Energy’s Energy Academy sparks student interest in industry

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

The inaugural Energy Academy represents a new and exciting dimension of Polk State College’s partnership with Duke Energy.

The tagline, “EmPOWERing Our Future,” perfectly encapsulates the impact of the academy: exposing students to a robust industry for their future careers, lighting the path for the community’s promise of good things to come, and solidifying the education-industry partnership necessary to sustain a talent pipeline, Polk State Vice President of Workforce Education and Economic Development Orathai Northern said.

Polk State students were electrified by the recent partnership between Duke Energy and the College with the launch of the Energy Academy – a two-day presentation of Duke Energy services for college-level students held on the Winter Haven Campus.  Sixty students with diverse backgrounds participated to learn more about the energy industry.

“The [students’] engagement was so refreshing. The Duke Energy team was so excited to share careers in the energy industry,” Duke Energy Vice President of Engineering Customer Delivery LaQuitta Ghent said. “We experienced a day of authentic student engagement, exposure, and hopefully nuggets to enhance the students’ personal brands.”


A leadership panel moderated by Engineering Design Associate Chiquita Clark engaged the youth in a discussion featuring Manager of Customer Care Operations Tranta Young, Director of Distribution Design Engineering Chris Bowman, Director of Energy Efficiency and Demand-Side Management Operations Malcolm Barnes, and Manager of Distribution Design Engineering Tunde Afolabi with Duke Energy.

“Don’t dim your light to let others shine – shine together,” Clark exclaimed.

Throughout the first day, students had the opportunity to sit in on additional panel discussions with Duke Energy executives, ask questions, win prizes, and receive information regarding scholarships, internships, and career opportunities.

Day two included tours to Hines Energy Complex in Bartow, hands-on activities, and career readiness and professional development workshops.

The students learned that Duke Energy is more than electricity and power poles.  The academy exposed the students that Duke is invested in not only providing the best service for its customers but also in paying it forward to promote the growth of the community, Polk State TRiO Student Support Services Academic Advisor Shagon Collins said.

TRiO Support Services provides underrepresented students with the potential to meet the challenges of higher education with the resources they need to develop their academic and self-management skills, and to succeed at Polk State and beyond.

TRiO’s partnership with Duke Energy is one shining example of the opportunities made possible for Polk State’s students through this program.

Sponsors of the inaugural Energy Academy event included Advocates for African Americans, Duke Energy Foundation, Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), and the Florida Chapter American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE).