In an effort to support STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education, in El Paso, Texas, State Government & Public Affairs Manager V.J. Smith works with eight schools near Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s El Paso refinery.
“We have a program called Partners in Education (PIE) that focuses on those eight schools,” said Smith. “For the past several years, we have provided mentorship at career days and field trips, in addition to supporting each school with an annual baseline grant.”
However, Smith has taken El Paso’s involvement a step further. In the past year and a half, with the help of El Paso employees such as Environmental Engineer Ruben Iguaran and Administrative Assistant Lisa Rodela, he has worked to build relationships with the principals of the PIE schools.
In addition, Smith and his team have worked to obtain grants for other neighboring school districts and learning communities where El Paso refinery employees volunteer their time.
“All schools that we support are Title 1 Schools,” he said. “Title 1 is a federally funded program that provides funds for schools that meet a threshold base of students at risk of failure and living at or near the poverty line.”
Smith regularly meets with all eight PIE principals to hear about their individual school’s needs. Once their programs are fully vetted, the grant application process begins.
“The grants that have been awarded directly impact the education of students in areas of high need and future growth,” said Smith. “For example, our grant underwriting a Franklin Welder prepares career and technical eduction students for actual certification for the workforce. A recent 3D printer grant allows students to understand how to create parts to become templates for manufacturing and mass production.”
Smith said the community has been very responsive. “We like the idea of supporting programs that build momentum for kids and support them through their scholastic progression,” he explains. “It’s also good business for MPC. A vast quantity of job openings exist in occupations related to science, technology, and engineering, and a significant shortage of qualified graduates to fill these careers.”
Marathon said that El Paso’s efforts are worthy of emulation by other locations.
“From welders to engineers and chemists, MPC’s success relies on our ability to recruit and retain employees with exceptional career and technical education and STEM-related skills,” Smith said. “And, as a socially responsible corporate citizen, STEM education is a logical choice for MPC’s community investment.”