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West High School and Tesoro partner to further STEM education

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SALT LAKE CITY — Representatives from the Tesoro Corp. refinery gifted West High School with an $80,000 check Friday as part of a new partnership to introduce students to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The $80,000 grant is the first award in what is expected to be 10 years of support by Tesoro, including in-class and on-site demonstrations by professionals in the oil industry.

"It’s more than a grant; it’s a partnership," said Karma Thomson, vice president of Tesoro's Salt Lake City refinery. "We want to make sure that we’re actually teachers in the classroom."

West High School engineering teacher Colby Wilson said the grant money will be used to purchase equipment and provide for teacher training. In addition to the funding, he said, the grant will create a partnership between the school and Tesoro to help students gain real-world insight from professionals in STEM fields.

"The idea is to get engineers in the classroom," Wilson said. "Money is nice, but it's the connection of an engineer in the room."

Students are often unaware of their potential and underexposed to possible careers, he said. The local Tesoro facility is an example of a nearby business with a range of career demands that most students have likely never considered as a potential workplace, Wilson said.

"It's six blocks away, and it might as well be on the moon," he said. "Hopefully this (program) will get them excited about engineering."

The $80,000 received Friday will go toward the first year of Tesoro's partnership with West High School, Wilson said, with the expectation that an ongoing partnership will continue for roughly 10 years.

It's not going to be just teaching the theoretical parts of (engineering). It'll be teaching the practical. They'll be able to actually do the construction of it and put the design in place to see if it works.

–Parley Jacobs, West High principal

Wilson said the specifics of the remaining years of the partnership — including funding totals — have yet to be determined. If the program proves successful, there are discussions of creating a student internship program with Tesoro sometime in the next two years, he said.

"That's where we'd like to see things expand," Wilson said.

Said Samatar, a West High School senior, said engineering appeals to curious minds, and he expects students to take advantage of the new program.

"I’ve had a lot of fun at West High School," he said. "Hopefully, with this grant, kids will have more fun than me."

West High Principal Parley Jacobs said the partnership with Tesoro will allow the school to develop courses that not only teach the concepts of engineering and mathematics but also how those concepts are used in real-world scenarios.

"It's not going to be just teaching the theoretical parts of it. It'll be teaching the practical," Jacobs said. "They'll be able to actually do the construction of it and put the design in place to see if it works."


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