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High school students attend Chevron STEM career exploration camps at Fayette

Following a closing reception held July 25, participants in the 2014 Chevron STEM career exploration camps posed for a group photo in front of the Community Center at Fayette campus.
Following a closing reception held July 25, participants in the 2014 Chevron STEM career exploration camps posed for a group photo in front of the Community Center at Fayette campus.

Faculty from Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, partnered with employees of Chevron this summer to teach, mentor, and expose 55 local high school students to the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) during two career exploration camps.

This marks the third summer that Chevron and Penn State Fayette have offered July STEM camps, which are designed to provide hands-on educational experiences. This year’s program was available at no charge to all high school students in Fayette and Westmoreland counties. Schools represented at the camp include Geibel Catholic, Uniontown, Laurel Highlands, Albert Gallatin, Brownsville, Southmoreland, Belle Vernon, Connellsville, Frazier, and Mount Pleasant.

Chevron provided all funding for this summer’s two STEM camps. The corporation supports innovative programs, such as the STEM camps at Penn State Fayette, that increase access to education and career and technical training for students in the communities where it operates, according to Mikal Zimmerman, a Policy, Government and Public Affairs Representative for Chevron. She said, “At Chevron, we depend on an educated workforce to meet our business needs, and we know that an educated and skilled workforce leads to economic growth for our business and the communities where we operate.”

Ms. Zimmerman explained that Chevron has learned that few factors are more important to the success of its business–and to a country’s ability to compete in the global marketplace–than a robust supply of workers educated/trained in science, technology, engineering and math. She said, “This has been a very good partnership between Penn State Fayette and Chevron, and we’ve been very pleased with the students that have signed up and the faculty and staff here, and the way they have run the program has just been stellar.”

Chevron’s commitment to the STEM camps goes beyond dollars and cents, according to Penn State Fayette’s Director of Continuing Education Joseph Segilia. He said, “We are very appreciative of Chevron’s support for the program—not only the financial support, but also their support by providing Chevron employees who come and talk to our students about careers in the STEM areas. I think that’s a very important part of this program because the program is not only a camp for the students to learn about STEM, it is also an opportunity for them to learn about potential careers in the STEM areas.”

In addition to mentoring by Chevron employees and classroom lectures from Penn State professors, campers took field trips to Laurel Caverns and the Carnegie Science Center. There also were opportunities to participate in project-based activities that fostered creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking, such as launching rockets and building Lego robots.

At a closing reception held July 25, students gave testimonials about their camp experiences, and a few stated that attending the camp had affected their outlook on a career in STEM. One of them was Caileigh Ermine, of Geibel Catholic. She said, “This week made me realize that I do want to go into the engineering field.”

Another camper, Luke Dice, from Albert Gallatin Area School District, has attended all three years of the Chevron STEM career exploration camps at Penn State Fayette. He said, “It’s really been a great opportunity for both myself as well as all the young adults that you see around this room, really exposing them to the STEM career path that is such a necessity in the workforce today.”

Perhaps the best example for students thinking of a STEM career came in the form of Chevron’s Manager of Business Development Planning Marc Payne, who spoke about his background and career at the camp’s closing reception. Mr. Payne told the students that in high school he did not know what type of career to choose. But he had an aptitude for mathematics and recognized the value of going into a technical discipline. Those factors led him to enroll at Penn State, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering.

After graduation, Mr. Payne joined Chevron, which has sent him to 60 countries over the past 20 years. He said, “I’ve done some very interesting things. I am excited about the opportunities I have had. It all came about because of having some interest in what we have been trying to show you during this STEM program here.”

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