Peak Center receives $500,000 grant from OGE foundation

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,144 views 

Fort Smith Public School’s Peak Innovation Center, which opened in March, has received a $500,000 grant from the OGE Energy Corp. Foundation to support the new OG&E “Live Safely” initiative at the center.

The program is designed to incorporate and promote safety and safe workplace practices, and will be used in the Advanced Manufacturing, Health Sciences and Information Technology labs at the center, an FSPS news release said. The OG&E grant will help provide additional safety and training equipment in labrooms and digital technology throughout the center, the news release said.

“Fort Smith Public Schools is grateful to the OGE Energy Corp. Foundation for this substantial investment in our students. We share OG&E’s commitment to the importance of creating a culture of safety to prepare students for the workforce where safety is critical,” said Dr. Terry Morawski, FSPS superintendent.

Dr. Gary Udouj, FSPS director of career education and district innovation, said the funding will be used for the  development of the OG&E Live Safely initiative at PEAK and allow for OG&E to be the named sponsor of the Learning Stairs. The Live Safely initiative will be embedded into the classes and help create a safety culture by defining safety as one of PEAK’s top priorities and values, he said.

Following are some components of the initiative.
• A safety training program will be developed in partnership with the OG&E Safety team and provided to full-time students and staff upon the start of school each year and reinforced regularly.
• A separate safety training program will be developed for all groups and visitors to Peak and delivered on the Learning Stairs before touring the facility.
• Safety-related signage, key messages, and computer/monitor screen savers will be installed in the building, promoting safety culture and behavior. The signage, both print and digital, will be co-branded with OG&E and Peak and include the Live Safely slogan.
• Safety-related videos, developed in partnership with the OG&E Safety team, will run periodically on video monitors throughout the building and video monitors adjacent to the Learning Stairs.

Amatrol training equipment also will be purchased for the Industrial Technology lab and will include 10 AC/DC electrical learning systems; 14 industrial soldering learning systems; five electric motor control learning systems; and five reduced voltage starting learning systems. Udouj said the grant also will fund digital technology including a 32’x10’ Video Wall 2.5 mm Pixel Pitch and 10 digital screens throughout the building.

“Contingent upon supply chains, we anticipate receiving the equipment and getting all the programming in place within the next two years,” Udouj said.

Ken Miller, vice president for public and regulatory affairs at Oklahoma City-based OG&E, said the company is proud to join other community partners in helping create and sustain career and technical education at Peak.

“The need in Fort Smith is for a skilled and well-trained workforce with new manufacturing companies and many expansions over the past year including Owens Corning, Rheem, Mars Petcare, and Hytrol to name a few. With its training programs in many needed areas, and concurrent credit program with the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, PEAK is a gamechanger for not only local companies to fill their employment needs, but also for local students to be prepared and gain high-paying jobs,” Miller said.

The Peak Innovation Center includes specialized lab spaces and classrooms for courses in healthcare, information technology, and advanced manufacturing. Education programs at the center are available to approximately 43,000 total students from 22 regional school districts. The programs are designed to equip career and college-bound students with real-world skills so they can secure high-paying jobs and/or pursue higher education in their chosen fields.

FSPS has received numerous gifts and grants for the center, including $1 million from ABB’s Fort Smith operation, $1 million from Fort Smith-based ArcBest, and $500,000 each from Baptist Health-Fort Smith and Mercy Fort Smith. The $19.076 million regional workforce training facility was constructed from the former Hutcheson shoe manufacturing building at 5900 Painter Lane donated in February 2019 by the estate of William Hutcheson Jr. The 181,710-square-foot building sits on almost 17 acres at the corner of Zero Street and Painter Lane.