CENTER TWP. – The West Greene School District, in a partnership with CONSOL Energy and Junior Achievement, is pioneering an ongoing classroom program that provides an opportunity for students to learn about different types of energy resources, the economic and environmental impact of each, and careers in the energy industry.
The program, known as The JA Careers in Energy Program, was developed locally with the objective to educate middle and early high school students about the energy industry.
The seven-session program for students in grades seven through nine at West Greene Middle-High School began in February and the most recent session was held Wednesday, when Samantha Larrick, supervisor-safety midstream for CONSOL Energy, visited the school to talk about a wide array of topics pertaining to the energy industry.
Attending the program Wednesday were Thelma Szarell, West Greene School District superintendent; Scott Sakai, middle-high school principal; Kim Cowden, school district counselor; Bill Lucas, JA vice president of development; and from CONSOL Energy, Kate O’Donovan, manager corporate communications–media relations, and Jessica Kearns, external relations specialist.
In a press release issued Wednesday, CONSOL Energy representatives said educating students on the energy industry is an integral component for the company.
“One of the ways CONSOL Energy gives back to the community is through our commitment to education,” stated Tommy Johnson, vice president of government affairs and public relations, in the release. “We want to do our part to help students gain the skills they will need to explore career opportunities in the energy industry and to reach their goals as confident, successful members of the community.”
Students and their classroom mentors from CONSOL will continue throughout the remainder of March with three additional classroom mentors.
“With energy prevalent in our area and particularly within our school district, we welcome the opportunity to continue our ongoing partnership with CONSOL to include the exploration of careers related to energy,” Szarell said. “CONSOL has been a wonderful partner with us in providing educational and financial support.”
JA representatives said they believe that students participating in the localized JA Careers in Energy program will receive a better insight into the energy industry from those who have already pursued careers in the field.
“Through this partnership with CONSOL Energy, and a number of other local and national energy companies, our JA Careers in Energy program helps our young people understand the opportunities available for them in the energy industry as well as the supporting industries.” said Dennis Gilfoyle, president and CEO of JA. “It’s also helping to ensure these industries have an educated and prepared workforce here locally to pull from and most importantly that it’s our kids filling these well paying jobs for generations to come.
“By providing financial and volunteer support to implement these programs, our industry partners are demonstrating their commitment to education and the future success of our young people and our region,” Gilfoyle added.
Although JA has been involved with programs at West Greene School District in years past, Lucas said this is the first time that a JA program at West Greene has focused on the energy industry. The program is expected to be offered in the school district annually.
JA is the world’s largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices.
JA programs are delivered by corporate and community volunteers, and provide relevant, hands-on experiences that give students from kindergarten through high school knowledge and skills in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship.
Today, JA reaches more than 72,000 students in western Pennsylvania through some 3,300 local volunteers. JA USA reaches four million students per year in more than 120 markets across the United States, with an additional 6.5 million students served by operations in 117 other countries worldwide.
JA has incorporated various programs in the Greene County school districts in years past.
Lucas said the JA Careers in Energy Program, which utilizes unbiased curriculum about the energy industry, is instrumental in giving students tools and information that could propel them to learn more about the industry.
“We care about the kids, and about their futures,” he said. “Through the program, we hope that they become educated about the industry and the careers that the industry could potentially offer. That’s what programs like this are all about.”
Cowden stressed that the program matches up with with the school’s science and Common Core curriculum.
One of the teachers whose students participated in the program Wednesday was life science teacher Rich Hopf. Hopf said that throughout the program the guest speakers from CONSOL have actively engaged the students in activities and presentations.
“With the ever-growing demand in the Marcellus Shale industry in this area, it’s important for students to see and understand the vast career possibilities in their own backyards,” he said. “Our students have a wonderful opportunity to see that they can have successful careers right here in southwestern Pennsylvania, provided by the natural gas industry.
“From pre-drilling to drilling to production, students are being, and will be, exposed to the wide range of occupations,” Hopf added. “This industry has allowed entrepreneurs to identify business and development opportunities from a wide range of educational backgrounds. The earlier we start to interest or motivate our students for their future career success, the better.”
Szarell agreed, adding that she is pleased to see the program in her school district.
“I think it is an excellent program,” she said. “Every student here is affected in some aspect relating to the energy industry. If this kind of program sparks their interests in the field by learning about it first-hand, then it is worth it.”