November is National Scholarship Month, and already monumental efforts by Cabot to support educational initiatives over the past decade are poised to explode in the wake of record natural gas production. With this comes an increased need for skilled tradesmen in the workforce, which is why Cabot is working to contribute directly to career and technology centers.
Since 2010, Cabot has committed more than $1.7 million to education in Susquehanna County through approximately 1,300 scholarships. Most of the money to date has been utilized by students attending the Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center (SCCTC) in Springville, but that is changing.
This year, Cabot has not only increased the amount of funding for scholarships but extended its reach of educational philanthropy to CTCs across the state, as well as to preschools. Cabot also invested in the Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit (MOLU), a 24-lesson hands-on energy and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) exhibit that travels to schools across the state.
“Education is the gateway to a good job and a meaningful career,” said George Stark, Cabot’s Director of External Affairs. “Cabot is committed to making education accessible to today’s students.”
The funds are managed by Commonwealth Charitable Management (CCM), which is certified by the state to administrator charitable contributions, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program, which allows businesses to earmark a portion of their state taxes paid for educational purposes.
According to Christine Clayton, Executive Director at CCM, Cabot is set to possibly double the number of students assisted through the EITC program and other means this year. “They are phenomenal,” Clayton said of Cabot. “Their overall mission is to go up as high as 16 new schools.”
Melissa Turlip is the Program Manager for CCM who works with schools to help determine where there is the most need. She noted that as enrollment starts in the summer, students are notified of the availability of the scholarship, which may be used toward any out-of-pocket expenses, including tuition, supplies, and certifications.
“They can be used for any program at the school,” Turlip explained. Supplies at technical centers can range from steel-toed boots and welding helmets to cosmetology kits. Some courses also require state testing, the cost of which can be burdensome to students or even prevent them from completing their education. “What Cabot is doing is eliminating those barriers,” said Turlip.
“They have removed all of the financial reasons for not going to school,” concurred Alice Davis, SCCTC Executive Director. Before Cabot became involved at the career center, attendance would drop off after the first few weeks of school as trades students started running out of money, Davis recalled. She can also use Cabot’s investments as a match for grants for the purchase of new equipment, she noted. “That helps us keep the tuition lower for sending districts.”
“I don’t know of any other companies in the energy sector committing quite so much to education,” Clayton related. There are three elements of the EITC program, she noted, and Cabot has maximized its allowable contributions for each. They include preschool scholarships, scholarship organization (SO) funding for kindergarten through high school seniors, and educational improvement organizations (EIO).
Cabot will release $200,000 for preschool scholarships across the Commonwealth alone this year, and CCM will help identify the schools that receive the funding, again based on need. SO funding used to be reserved for private schools, Clayton explained, but the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) has now permitted CCM to steer Cabot’s SO dollars to career schools.
Clayton credits the new allocation strategy to CCM’s 20-year relationship with the DCED and Cabot’s unflagging commitment. “It’s really great how much they are working with us,” she remarked.
The MOLU units utilize a combination of EIO and the Energy Education Fund, the latter dedicated to STEM studies. “EIO money can be used toward the MOLU because it’s providing programming that is hands-on and full of activity that fits the schools STEM curriculum,” said Clayton. EIO can also be used for dual enrollment programs, which allow high school students to earn college credits.
With Cabot employing all of the tools in the box, so to speak, CCM is able to reach more students and schools via the EITC program than ever seemed possible.
“Students in Susquehanna County have already benefited from their scholarship dollars,” Clayton stated. “We are now helping Cabot branch across the state to where their employees are from and affiliated organizations are located.”
“Cabot is grateful to have wonderful partners who value educational outreach,” Stark stated. “Together, we are creating a better community.”