Renew Our Rivers started 15 years ago with a goal to clean and protect Alabama’s waterways. This spring, the Alabama Power Foundation honored this effort with Students to Stewards, a new grant program aimed at growing conservation education opportunities throughout the state.

“This program is a natural extension of the Alabama Power Foundation’s dedication to transforming and improving the quality of life for the communities and families we serve,” said Matt Bowden, Alabama Power vice president of Environmental Affairs and a foundation board member.

Grants will provide support for dynamic stewardship, conservation education and outdoor classrooms to teach students about the importance of ecosystems. The program aims to engage students and grows their appreciation for natural resources.

“The Alabama Power Foundation helped fund initial development of our Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program almost 15 years ago and this expansion of their support for outdoor, hands-on learning is tremendous,” said Tim Gothard, executive director of the Alabama Wildlife Federation. “Students to Stewards will provide educators and organizations new and expanded opportunities to foster in our students a passion for wildlife and conservation.”

Lisa Dover, executive director of Keep Etowah Beautiful, knows the impact environmental education has on students and the important role grants have in keeping these conservation initiatives in schools.

“If we’re not teaching our children how to protect these resources, we’re losing these resources,” Dover said. “These grants will provide teachers with opportunities to not only teach their students about stewardship, but also learning experiences they would not receive during tough financial times.”

Programs like Students to Stewards are crucial in keeping environmental efforts in schools, said Kay Donaldson, vice president of marketing for the Alabama Bass Trail.

“For the Alabama Power Foundation to step in and provide this funding to our school systems will give students experiences they would not have otherwise,” Donaldson said. “This program will get students outside of the normal textbooks to explore ecosystems and natural resources.”

Donaldson said the program will instill good stewardship values in students early on so they can take them through their life and pass them on to the next generation.

“This is one more way to engage students who are more nature-minded and teach them the importance of conservation,” Donaldson said.

Students to Stewards will invest more than $30,000 a year in conservation and stewardship. Awards will be in two categories — curriculum and outdoor classrooms.

“In the curriculum category, our goal is to distribute $15,000 in awards, up to $1,000 each, to develop classroom lesson plans, in-the-field learning opportunities and teacher training,” said Peggy Burnett, program coordinator for the Alabama Power Foundation. “We are also looking to partner on building three outdoor classrooms during the 2014-2015 school year, distributing up to $7,500 for each.”

The Alabama Power Foundation is reviewing applications this summer. After grant committee review, awards will be announced in September.

For more information on Students to Stewards and other Alabama Power programs, visit

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