CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Energy Corporation of America awarded $600,000 to the Clay Center to promote youth interest in science, technology, engineering and math during its groundbreaking ceremony Friday at the site of the company's new Eastern headquarters.John Mork, chief executive officer of ECA, a natural gas company headquartered in Charleston, said the donation was a challenge grant to the Clay Center, which plans to match the amount dollar-for-dollar to create a mobile exhibit geared toward middle school students to generate greater interest in STEM careers."We think this education initiative the Clay Center is doing is fabulous; we need more STEM education," Mork said. "We just think the industry is going to create a ton of jobs for kids who go on to get some type of science, technology, engineering or math background."The Power Your Future Exhibit will give students game-based opportunities to learn about the natural gas industry and potential careers in a hands-on, engaging way, according to Judy Wellington, president and CEO of the Clay Center.
"ECA's substantial gift is a strong challenge to the rest of the energy sector and other donors to match this historic investment in an educational project that means so much to the future of this state," Wellington said.The goal of the interactive exhibit is twofold: to test students' abilities so schools will be better able to reinforce concepts in the classroom, and to expose students to the career opportunities available to them in their home state."At its core, this project is about access, using education to bridge divides in our community, and promoting greater levels of student engagement and interactivity with the content they need to learn to be competitive in a 21st-century workforce," Wellington said.The Clay Center recently completed the conceptual design of the mobile exhibit, which will have interactive stations where students can collect sonic data, set up drill sites, design drill bits and prepare films about the gas industry.According to Mork, 7 percent of ECA's net income is reinvested in the communities it operates in, and as a natural gas company founded in West Virginia, ECA is committed to creating and maintaining employment opportunities in the state."I like to tell people that I have a huge advantage over native West Virginians because I was raised in California, and that is that I can brag unabashedly about West Virginia," he said. "We in-source to West Virginia all of our worldwide accounting, IT and human resources jobs because we have such great people."The site of the new ECA headquarters will be in Charleston's NorthGate Business Park, and the new facility is the result of the company's consistent growth, Mork said."Over the last 15 years, we have donated around $25 million to local communities," Mork said. "I have tremendous respect for the Clay Center's work and the quality of the education it offers. This sponsorship is just one more way ECA is demonstrating our unceasing commitment to the communities where we operate."ECA owns and operates about 4,600 wells, 5,000 miles of pipeline and 1 million acres in North America, according to the company. It employs roughly 110 people in the Charleston area, and has maintained its headquarters in Charleston since 1987.Reach Lydia Nuzum at email@example.com or 304-348-5100.