Dow Chemical joins with Education Alliance in High School internship effort

By Lexi Browning

WV Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Four students from three West Virginian high schools marked the end of their four-week internship with Dow Inc. this week by presenting capstone projects before The Education Alliance, who hosted the internships, and Dow Inc. leaders. 

The second annual WV Ready Summer Internship Program, an initiative of The Education Alliance, was shifted to a virtual internship as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

During their internship, students Callia Yang and Adam Keith, both of George Washington High School, Yimin Cai of Hurricane High School and Jacob Gillenwater of St. Albans High School learned about Dow’s procedures and processes, operations and critical response efforts. 

“Safety is our number one priority at Dow Chemical, so within that framework, we tried to provide the interns with a 3,000-ft view of a day in the life of an operator — their responsibilities, the functions that they interact with on a daily basis to resolve issues,” said Don Light, apprentice leader for WV operations and mentor.

Students were then tasked with developing a response and resolution to a hypothetical above-ground chemical leak. 

Interns the recent 2014 chemical spill in the Elk River in Kanawha County and the 2020 gas leak in Hyderabad, India, that killed 11 and left 1,000 ill, the interns illustrated the significance of responding quickly and efficiently to contain hazardous chemicals. Creating procedures for a Confined Space Entry operation, the interns strategized ways to prepare the tank for entry, monitor containment efforts and rescue injured coworkers. 

Citing excerpts from their developed resources, the interns planned to seek emergency personnel to mitigate the leak after discovery by using sandbags before transferring the remaining contents from the first tank to a “beta” or secondary tank. Before entering the tank, the tank’s interior would be rinsed, tested and deemed safe before repairs could be made. Entrants would be accompanied and monitored. 

On behalf of the team, Yang thanked The Education Alliance, Dow Inc. and Light for the unparalleled opportunities and lessons the internship provided. 

“Individually and as a team, we’ve learned so much during our internship,” Yang said. “We have accomplished a great task of creating procedures for a Confined Space Entry, which upon first thought was very complicated and confusing. Our hard work, curiosity and determination allowed us to work as a team and find a solution to a rather large problem.”

Light iterated the depth of potential and strong ethic the interns possessed. 

“They’ve done a wonderful job, and it was a pleasure to work with them,” Light said. “I don’t know what their futures hold, but I am confident that regardless of what they decide and which direction they decide to go in, they’ll be very successful.”

Amelia Courts, president and CEO of The Education Alliance, applauded the students’ ability to rise to the occasion — with handling both hypothetical situations and working virtually. 

During their presentations — made during a zoom call July 31 with national and state leaders — the interns showcased not only the technical skills needed to do an internship during a pandemic, but also practical life skills like teamwork, professionalism, and work ethic learned during their internship. Each intern gave their capstone presentation to their business’ leadership team and outlined their experience and highlight their personal growth and future career goals.

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito; Robert Burton, president of West Virginia American Water; Srini Matam, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia; and Tom O’Neal, site director of Dow Inc.; were among those observing the capstone presentations, which were hosted by Courts and Olivia McCuskey.  

Tim O’Neal, vice president and site director of Dow Chemical Company’s subsidiary Union Carbide Corporation, expressed his appreciation for the program and supporters. 

“Obviously, it’s an investment in our future and not only will it make West Virginia shine, but for some of the participants, hopefully it gives them additional insight and motivation into their futures as well.”

Each student echoed the gratitude they had for Light, who they said adequately prepared them to navigate challenges along the way and work hands-on to find solutions. Yang noted that she particularly enjoyed the mentor calls with Light, where she learned about educational and occupational opportunities within Dow. 

“I think the most important skill was communication and teamwork, because we needed to communicate a lot with Don to receive all the information we needed for the presentation in order for our team to create this presentation dn work together well so it could be successful.”

“At first it was confusing, but after a little more guidance, we got the ball rolling and it went pretty well,” Cai said. 

Yang noted how collectively, each teammate’s unique leadership skills to the table made the entire operation more functional. 

“A lot of us haven’t met because of COVID[-19], but we cliqued really well and found each of our niches,” Yang said. “Jacob [Gillenwater] was really good at finding which valves should reopen, and more of the technical side, which I was confused [about], but he explained it really well… Adam was really good at writing the procedures and more of the [organization]. Yimin was really good at keeping us focused on what we needed to do.”

No matter which paths interns choose for their futures, the knowledge gained through the internship will follow them wherever they go, said Olivia McCuskey, director of Strategic Engagement. 

“To provide this real world experience, even in a virtual setting, is empowering as they move forward toward graduation,” McCuskey said. 

“Investing in our next generation is critical to the future success of West Virginia,” said Toyota’s Matam. “It is critical that business and community members step forward to prepare our future workforce. Toyota believes that every child deserves a chance at success and by investing in the WV Ready Internship program, we are proudly committed to helping prepare the state’s future workforce through education. With virtual training, we are able to keep our students safe amid this pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic will not stop us from educating our students.”

Students with their high school and internship company this year include:

— Jordan Mosley from St. Albans High School in Kanawha County at Toyota Motor Manufacturing WV;

— Aiden Kittle from Grafton High School in Taylor County at Toyota Motor Manufacturing WV;

— Rebekah Rowan from Parkersburg South High School in Wood County at

Toyota Motor Manufacturing WV;

— David Jarrell from Sherman High School in Boone County at Toyota Motor Manufacturing WV;

— James Scott from Huntington High School in Cabell County at Toyota Motor Manufacturing WV;

— Jace Larch from Riverside High School in Kanawha County at WV American Water;

— Tyrees Smith from Huntington High School in Cabell County at WV American Water;

—  Peyton Bielinski from Hurricane High School in Putnam at WV American Water;

— Kushal Modi from Nitro High School in Kanawha County at WV American Water;

— Garrett Beller from Winfield High School in Putnam County at WV American Water;

— Adam Keith from George Washington High School in Kanawha County at Dow Inc.;

— Callia Yang from George Washington High School in Kanawha County at Dow Inc.;

 — Yimin Cai from Hurricane High School in Putnam County at Dow Inc. ;

— Jacob Gillenwater from St. Albans High School in Kanawha County at Dow Inc.;

— Addie Davis from Grafton High School in Taylor County WV American Water.

The program is anticipated to be expanded in coming years to serve more of the state’s soon-to-be graduates, with the eventual goal being to expand statewide. To learn more about the program, visit EducationAlliance.org/WVReadyInternships.

— About The Education Alliance: Founded in July 1983 as the first statewide public education fund in the nation, The Education Alliance is a private-sector initiative to help businesses understand the importance of financially and resourcefully supporting the state’s public schools and to give business a voice in public education that advances policies and practices to continually improve public school student achievement in West Virginia.

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