An Uplifting Program

Jenaia Smith, advanced Customer Service associate, meets with Larry Ray and Dan Fuline of Stark State College.

November 5, 2019

FirstEnergy officially announced a new education program – Educate to Elevate – initially available for Akron’s Contact Center and Self-Service employees. Through a partnership with Stark State College and The University of Akron, the goal of Educate to Elevate is to help develop a highly skilled workforce that is adaptable and ready for the future by pursuing associate and bachelor’s degrees.

With a focus on convenience and accessibility, instructors from Stark State College and The University of Akron will provide on-site classes at our Akron-area facilities. The program will begin in January 2020.

“By working with the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education, Stark State College and The University of Akron, we realized we could solve potential scheduling and transportation problems by bringing professors and instructors directly to our facilities to teach after our regular workday ends,” said Gary Grant, vice president, Customer Service, and Educate to Elevate program sponsor. “This is a ‘win-win’ situation, where employees can earn degrees and FirstEnergy builds a more knowledgeable, career-minded workforce.”

An open house was held on Oct. 29 at the Fairlawn auditorium where interested employees could learn more about Educate to Elevate and meet with representatives from Stark State College and The University of Akron. Nearly 60 employees attended the event.

As of now, 45 employees have indicated plans to enroll in the program, according to Wally Hartory, Educate to Elevate program lead.

“It’s exciting to see that employees already are embracing the program, Wally said. “They realize this is a great educational opportunity and that FirstEnergy is making it as convenient as possible.  Plus, by utilizing FirstEnergy’s Education Assistance Plan, they can attain degrees at an exceptionally affordable cost.”

In addition to Gary Grant, Educate to Elevate program sponsors are Bob Reffner, senior vice president and General Counsel; and Chris Walker, senior vice president and chief Human Resource officer. Core Team members are: Ken Strah, director, Customer Contact Center; Rick Schroth, general manager, Customer Contact Center; Samantha Richmond, Customer Service assistant; Jessica Ferre, administrative technician II; Katie Blandford, manager, Human Resources Analytics; Misty Terry, supervisor, Customer Self-Service; Rebekah Semelsberger, supervisor, Customer Contact Center; Kim Lanier, Human Resource consulting business specialist; Morgan Parke, associate general counsel; and Holly Harris-Bain, president, Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education.

Bob Reffner talks with open house attendees.

Rebecca Davis and Lisa Coomes, Customer Service associates, review Stark State College information with Andrew “Drew” Felberg.