Reprinted with permission from Hart Energy
Diversity in Energy
Hess Corporation is focusing on areas where the company believes its efforts will have a meaningful and lasting impact. Houston’s predominately Hispanic Second Ward and African American Third Ward are among the communities getting the attention of the global independent energy company, which has its operational headquarters at Hess Tower in Houston. The neighborhoods are adjacent to Hess Tower in downtown Houston.
In early 2021, Hess announced a three-year $9 million financial commitment to its Houston Learning for Life Partnership that funds educational programs and support services for children living in economically disadvantaged communities. The partnership benefits more than 13,000 children in about 22 schools and expands Hess’ Learn, Engage, Advance and Persevere (LEAP) educational program, which has invested more than $7 million over the last eight years to support students in Houston’s Magnolia Park and Second Ward neighborhoods.
Education is “kind of our sweet spot,” said Will Rea, director of external affairs and communications with Hess, noting the company has been focused in that area for many years. Its efforts have included considerable investment to help the government in Equatorial Guinea establish a sustainable school system there, where Hess once operated.
As explained in Hess’ latest sustainability report, the company tailors external affairs and stakeholder plans for each of its operated locations. Its strategy includes a five-step process in which risks, and issues are identified, internal accountabilities established, key stakeholders identified, engagements outlined, and progress is tracked and monitored. In the Houston area, the Hess team has worked with the city of Houston, the nonprofit Greater Houston Community Foundation (GHCF) and Houston Independent School District, among others, to help determine where volunteer efforts and financial resources should be directed.
About nine years ago, the needle pointed to Houston’s Second Ward. Partnering with the GHCF to identify areas of need in the Second Ward, Rea said Hess learned some children were behind a year or more in school, some were part of households where English was not spoken well, some needed school uniforms or some needed rides to schools or afterschool programs on certain days. So that is where Hess directed its efforts initially.
“Ultimately, we want all children in these neighborhoods to get a fair shot to succeed in life,” Rea said.
In the last two years, Hess’ Houston area efforts have expanded south into the Third Ward, which is predominantly African American. Rea said the company wanted to “double down,” especially in light of the conversation around racial injustice and what happened with George Floyd—the African American man whose 2020 murder by a Minneapolis police officer was captured on video, shocking the world. Floyd grew up in Houston’s Third Ward.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” Rea said of investing in the community. “We have a longstanding commitment to being a good corporate citizen, and we want to make a positive, long-lasting impact where we operate.”
He added that Hess focuses on education needs over multiple years.
“For us, it’s more than a financial investment,” Rea said. “We get our folks personally engaged as Hess Force volunteers, which gives them a chance to make a difference.”
Hess funds the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s My Home Library program. Employees volunteer their time sorting, packing and delivering books to schools as well as reading to students.
“The kids light up,” Rea said. “They are so excited to get a stack of books they selected.”
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many to pivot to virtual offerings and plan for a successful return into classrooms when educators deem it safe for in-person campus visits.
“We lost a lot of time in our education efforts in the last year like everybody,” Rea said.
He pointed out the potential need for more support, considering some students may have fallen behind or missed out on exciting enrichment opportunities due to the pandemic. Some Hess employees were able to engage virtually during the pandemic as mentors with students of two middle schools through Big Brothers Big Sisters, but they are ready to get back into classrooms, Rea said. Plans are for Hess employees to assist robotics teams and deliver Hess Toy Truck STEM kits to classrooms among other activities.
Our employees know they are making an impact on the lives of our children,” Rea said of volunteer opportunities. “So they are incredibly committed.”
It is all part of the company’s values to be socially responsible.
“We partner with the best non-profit companies in our city who care deeply and deliver on their mission,” Rea said.
Grants awarded by Hess through its Learning for Life Partnership pay for educational programs, equipment, curricula and teacher training, mentorship programs and guidance along with full scholarships for up to nine high school seniors each year to attend college or pursue vocation certification.
“The essays we read as part of the application process are moving and inspiring,” Rea added. “All these young adults need is an opportunity. We’re blessed to play a small role in helping them realize their dreams.”
Though volunteers engage students in STEM activities to heighten their interests, scholarship recipients are not limited to pursuing degrees in such fields.
“Our scholarships allow students to pursue whatever major they want,” he said.
Hess is committed to these initiatives for the long term.
“We’re not under the illusion that somehow this partnership can achieve its goals in just two or three years. It has to be sustaining,” Rea said. “We want to see it through.”
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