Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

September 27, 2013

Boyd seniors return to career day with eyes open five years later

CATLETTSBURG — Five Boyd County High School seniors who toured through Marathon Petroleum’s Career Day as eighth-graders looked at it through a different prism on Thursday.

Now much closer to joining the workforce, with only college ahead of them, they saw the eye-opening potential right in their own back yard.

“It definitely made more of an impact on me,” said Joe Hupp, who expressed an interest in engineering long ago. “I hadn’t taken chemistry (when he went through prior).

“I sure didn’t know you could start out making $80,000 on some jobs.”

The other seniors — Slone Alley, Kaleb Mullins, Hope Hicks and Brittany Jarrell — expressed similar sentiments about the tour. They were all much more impressed with what was being described to them by the Marathon employees at 15 different stations.

Brittany Jarrell, for one, hopes to have a Marathon position in her future. She has part of it mapped out already.

“I’m interested in chemical engineering,” said the Boyd County STEM student. “I want to go to University of Louisville and intern with the company.”

Hicks came away impressed with the number of job opportunities available at the refinery. “You have a better appreciation of that,” she said.

This is only the second time that seniors who were part of the program as eighth-graders have returned, said Marathon HR supervisor Greg Jackson. A class from Ashland Blazer High School two years ago was interviewed and actually recalled nine of the 15 stations.

Marathon has been doing the career fair since 2007, according to Nicci Triche, a lab supervisor and diversity team member who has been coordinating the event since 2009.

A prevailing message to the middle school students who attend is to remain in school and stay on top of math and science skills.

More than 2,900 students from 30 middle schools in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia to visit Marathon Petroleum’s England Hill Training Center for the career day. The day brings children up close and personal with workers in 16 departments at Marathon’s Catlettsburg refinery in the hope that some of them will consider careers there.

The five Boyd County seniors remembered the trip from eighth grade but have a totally different perspective now that they are seniors.

“Eighth grade was a long time ago,” Alley said. “I remember doing the activities and I definitely remember the operation (booth). Hands-on is always better.”

Many of the booths, manned by employees of Marathon departments who talked about their day-to-day routines and provided hands-on activities, have improved in the five years that these seniors visited, Triche said.

“The engineering booth is a lot more elaborate and the fire and rescue has changed a lot,” she said. “We didn’t even have the diversity booth, which focuses on bullying, when these kids went through five years ago.”

As the seniors went to each booth, they seemed much more engaged than their middle school counterparts who were touring with them. They listened intently as the Marathon employees explained what was happening in their respective booth.

With college on the horizon and a tough job market out there, mental notes were being taken along the way.

“It shows how many opportunities are under one roof,” said Ben Maynard, an assistant principal at Boyd County Middle School. “If kids can walk through this and show no interest, there’s something wrong.

“You may not want to be an engineer but there’s room for you at Marathon.”

It also shows the high achievers that it’s important to stay up on the science and math skills.

“It makes you appreciate what they really do here and how much science and math go into it,” Alley said.

Jarrell, who is a student representative at Marathon CAP events for citizens, said the entire touring experience “was more visual, more hands on. I understand it a lot more now.”

She was also impressed with Marathon’s focus on safety for every employee and quality in everything they do.

“I enjoyed seeing how things have advanced since eighth grade,” Mullins said. “Everybody had so much pride in what they were doing.”

Melanie Jarrell, a middle school teacher at Boyd County, said the tour is one of her favorite field trips.

“It really opens their eyes as to what is available in our area,” she said. “When we go back and talk about the trip there are a lot of different questions. We need things like this to build up the area. We’re losing the best of the best.”

Jarrell’s daughter, Brittany, was one of the seniors making the return trip. She said the tour when Brittany was an eighth-grader triggered her interest in chemical engineering.

Of course, that’s the outcome that Marathon is hoping to achieve through the career day.

“This program is vitally important,” Jarrell said. “It makes a huge impact on these eighth-graders.”

The five seniors may have also learned they don’t want to go in the lemonade selling business. At the accounting booth, the groups input numbers at a lemonade stand. The seniors went bankrupt and finished with only $2.14. One of the middle school groups made more than $56.

Company spokeswoman Sheila Fraley said they plan on speaking again with the Boyd County seniors about the experience of going through career day five years later.

“It gives us a gauge on what we can do better,” she said.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

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