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“Great Futures Start Here” is the pledge of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County, and it’s a pledge they have lived up to by instilling the values of fun, respect, integrity, community and acceptance into our county’s youth kids since 1995.

For the first time, this summer the Boys & Girls Club launched STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs at all of their locations in Skagit County. The STEM program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County was a journey of discovery for the kids, offering a variety of learning opportunities in areas such as coding, engineering, chemistry and environmental conservation.

Supporting STEM education is one of the Shell Puget Sound Refinery’s core social investment focus areas, and the refinery jumped at the opportunity this summer to partner with the Boys & Girls Club of Skagit County to launch their first ever STEM Summer Camp.  As part of the camp, Shell PSR employees have been volunteering at STEM camps across the county with their “Mini-Refinery” in tote to teach Boys & Girls Club kids about the processes of our refinery, and how an education in STEM fields could lead to a future career in the energy industry. The Mini-Refinery is a complete miniature working replica of a process unit that could be found onsite at the refinery. Not only do the kids come in wide-eyed when first taking a look at Mini-Refinery equipment, but they are equally as awed by the engineers who volunteer their time to help teach the kids about its function.

Steve Williams, a Process Engineer at Shell Puget Sound Refinery, is one of the passionate volunteers whom the kids love. Williams’ response to why STEM camps are an important activity for youths in the community was, “Getting more exposed to STEM activities can encourage and inspire kids to pursue those fields later in life.”  

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Steve Williams, a Process Engineer at Shell Puget Sound Refinery, is one of the passionate volunteers whom the kids love. Williams’ response to why STEM camps are an important activity for youths in the community was, “Getting more exposed to STEM activities can encourage and inspire kids to pursue those fields later in life.” 

“We need to help light the spark and show the youth all the wonderful opportunities that the STEM fields provide,” Williams added. “The earlier we put the idea in their heads, the better as to help guide the kids in taking the right classes in middle and high school.”

Along with being great with the kids, Williams is happy to help break down misconceptions about refineries. The Mini-Refinery helps people to understand and actually see with their own eyes what is happening in the tall steel structures that they see almost every day.

The Boys & Girls Club of Skagit County Director of STEM Initiatives, John Garman, designed the Discover Motion STEM Camp that has been implemented at each of the Skagit Clubs this summer, and Garman has seen that the interest for the STEM fields is growing in younger children.

“Many of our kids have the interest in the science fields, but lack the skills,” said Garman. “This told me that the kids we serve have had limited access or exposure to the STEM fields and watching them develop the skill sets to be successful in these fields has been exciting.”

“Shell's role in providing the opportunity for our kids to participate in STEM Camps for their summer fun has been incredible,” Garman continued. “It was great having individuals from the Shell Puget Sound Refinery visit the Clubs and demonstrate the mini-refinery because it shows the kids just how many different STEM jobs there are in their community. They got to meet engineers, chemical engineers, mechanics, and operators, and discover how the education they receive today can be both meaningful and interesting for their future.”