Phillips66 Donates $1M to PCPS

Ponca City Now - February 16, 2024 10:00 am

Phillips66 has donated $1 million to Ponca City Public Schools as part of a community initiative grant. The money will be used to support PCPS’s ambitious STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) facility on the high school campus. It is the single largest donation in history for PCPS. A press conference has been scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, at 3:45 p.m. at the Anderson building at the high school to announce the details of the project.
“When I returned to work with PCPS in 2021 and learned the work that was happening with the 2021 Bond package, I felt our community was hungry for a generational project. In fact, over the last few years we felt in our discussions with our corporate partners that there was a shared hunger to come alongside us and ensure our students and teachers had every tool possible to succeed with a new way to deliver STEM experiences,” said PCPS Superintendent Adam Leaming. “I credit Erin Liberton and Heath Wanamaker of Phillips66 for their open discussions and buying into this shared vision on how we think STEM can become a cornerstone for Ponca City.”
“Our Board of Education has bought into a vision of year-long STEM experiences for every level of student, and now, witnessing a private business like Phillips66 stepping up to the plate with a historic donation ensures we can help deliver a new level of service to our community. Thank you Phillips66 for the lasting generational impact you’re making on our Wildcats!” said Leaming.
“As a company dedicated to fostering education and innovation, we are proud to announce our significant investment in the Ponca City School’s STEM program. This commitment reflects our belief in the power of education to shape the future. By supporting local students in their pursuit of STEM education, we aim to ignite a passion for learning and inspire the next generation of innovators. We hope this investment will not only open doors to educational opportunities but also empower students to tackle challenges and contribute to technological advancements. Through our partnership with Ponca City Public Schools, we envision a future where these students become catalysts for positive change, driving innovation and progress in our community and beyond,” said Heath Wanamaker, General Manager, Phillips66, Ponca City Refinery.
Why a STEM Curriculum Is Necessary
In today’s rapidly revolving world, STEM education is the cornerstone of preparing students for success after high school. Unfortunately, many Ponca City students (nearly 76 percent) face socio-economic challenges that limit their access to quality STEM education opportunities. With the ever-growing demand for STEM-related careers, PCPS recognizes the urgent need to equip our students with the knowledge and skills required to thrive in these fields.
The Ponca City Board of Education recognized this need leading up to the school bond election in October of 2021. The community believed in this mission and passed the bond issue (81 percent). A total of $7 million of local funds were committed to the design and remodel for Ponca City’s first ever STEM facility. In addition to $7 million for the infrastructure, PCPS has allocated $300,000 in additional funds for furniture and equipment. Students and citizens of Ponca City will have access to a space that will bring a plethora of STEM opportunities, including computer coding, aviation, physics and robotics, and 3D design.
Thinking Differently
PCPS wanted to think outside the box on how this curriculum would be delivered to students. The board of education wanted STEM to be open to ALL students and not limited to a small number of the most advanced students. Secondly, the district wanted STEM to be available all hours and every day. PCPS made the decision to hire a full-time 12-month STEM director to help plan and coordinate all STEM activities in our facility on a year-round basis. The STEM director is currently working with our Secondary Director of Curriculum for classes that are set to begin in the fall of 2024. Plans for elementary students to have special projects and technical opportunities throughout the summer each year are also in development.
PCPS also tasked our new STEM director, Alicia Smith, to begin visiting with local businesses and industry partners in the community with the goal to create a new coalition of support.
Empowering All Students
PCPS believes that a robust STEM program is crucial in breaking down barriers and empowering ALL students, including females and those considered at-risk. Statistics show there is a barrier for females choosing and pursuing a STEM career. Our STEM initiatives will be intentional in the recruitment and process to counter act this reality. Phillips66’s donation will enable the district to create a nurturing and inclusive learning environment where every student feels encouraged and supported to pursue STEM careers.
PCPS will hang the Phillips66 shield alongside some exterior upgrades.
“Phillips 66 continues to be dedicated to making a positive impact in the community through our corporate giving philosophy, which centers around safety, education, and the environment. Our monumental investment in the Ponca City STEM program is a testament to our belief that education is the cornerstone of progress. By partnering with Ponca City Public Schools, we aim to empower students to become the achievers of tomorrow while also fostering a generation passionate about making a difference. Together, we are building a foundation for a brighter and more innovative future, where our collective efforts contribute to the advancement of these critical fields,” said Erin Liberton, Senior Advisor, Community Relations and Communications, Phillips66.
Alicia Smith, STEM Director, said, “We are so thankful for the outstanding donation from P66 towards our new STEM facility. This donation is going to allow Ponca City Public schools to create an impactful STEM program across the district. It will provide necessary resources to develop activities, programs, and support for all students in our district to explore if their passion lies in a STEM field. Ponca City High School will be better able to grow and develop our STEM program into a competitive field with the purchase of more diverse tools for student projects. It will encourage a more hands-on, lab-driven approach in teacher instructional strategies. Teachers won’t have to scramble to find materials so they can conduct a new exploratory activity with their students. The makerspace will be outfitted with such a wide array of materials that any teacher, in any subject, can incorporate student-centered, project-based learning into lessons.”
“Our goal for our STEM program has been preparing our students for life outside of Po-Hi, no matter what it looks like. We have been designing our STEM program to do just that. Now, with P66’s gracious donation it will allow our STEM program to flourish and accomplish our goal on a more complete scale. Our students will have access to more diverse programs, curriculum, materials, equipment, and experiences outside a traditional classroom. This will allow them to explore what drives them forward while engaging with the curriculum in new ways.”
“P66 has allowed us to design a STEM program that no student will be barricaded or boxed in. Our students will be supported in their passions by having access to our new facility, curriculum, programs, and teachers that are all rooted in STEM fields. We are all looking forward to how this STEM facility is going to shape Po-Hi, our district, and community as our students move forward and a huge part of this is all because of P66’s support of this vision.”

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