Chevron, School Team Up to ‘Lead the Way’ in Cameron

CAMERON – A new school designed with technology in mind and built in the heart of the oil and gas industry boom in Marshall County, has officials at Cameron High School looking for ways to take advantage and provide new opportunities for their students.

Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, thanks in part to a partnership with Chevron, the school will offer courses connected to Project Lead The Way, a program focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education. Officials believe the courses will help students gain employment in the gas and oil industry as soon as they graduate from high school, helping boost the local work force.

During a meeting of the Marshall County Board of Education earlier this month, Kelly Frazier, who serves as a guidance counselor at Cameron, presented information to the board regarding the program. She said Chevron has been a good neighbor and partner with the school, providing scholarships and other monetary awards for academic achievement. However, the investment from Chevron for Project Lead The Way would far exceed anything the school had seen before.

“We’re talking roughly $300,000 worth of education to get this off the ground,” she said.

According to the program description, Project Lead The Way is an effort to help current students learn skills that will help them succeed in a high-tech, global economy.

It focuses on critical-reasoning and problem-solving skills, giving students projects and tasks that have no set outcome. There is also a heavy focus on problem-based learning, with emphasis on hands-on learning that requires students to design, build and collaborate with others to come up with a solution while also implementing their science and math knowledge.

The lessons for the courses are laid out, and educators who teach it receive training prior to taking those lessons to the classroom. While the coursework is free, the equipment necessary, including computer software and hardware and project kits, are the responsibility of the school.

Frazier said Chevron approached Cameron about the program in an effort to bridge the gap between the community and their oil and gas operations in the county. Because much of the company’s operations are in the Cameron area, the company wanted to give back to that community while also creating opportunities for students.

“They were interested specifically in West Virginia and Cameron,” she said.

The board of education voted this past week to approve the program, which will be offered when school resumes in August. The programs will be fully funded by Chevron for the first three years, including the cost of technology and other potential expenses. For the first year, Frazier said the middle school program will be Gateway to Technology, while the high school program will be focused on the Pathway to Engineering.

“This is pertinent and relevant to our area, and our kids can get jobs in this area with this training,” Frazier said, adding the program also sets up students who want to pursue a degree after high school.

After the three-year period, the district would be required to fund the program, which Frazier said would cost $3,000 per year for the high school portion and $720 for the middle school. The courses will be taught by existing teachers who volunteered to go through the proper training, and the courses fit the existing schedule.

Additionally, Frazier said students have already shown interest and meet the pre-requisites the school has set for participation in the courses.

“This is the type of program we’ve been talking about for years,” Marshall County Board of Education Vice President Lori Kestner said, adding the new school’s purpose was to house programs such as this.

Incoming Superintendent Michael Hince, who takes office Monday, called the program “excellent” and was involved with the board’s decision to approve the program.