Liany Martinez, fourth grader, presents her Electrolysis of H20 science fair project to Rene' Nowalk, a chemist with LyondellBasell.
It’s been over 20 years and the partnership between LyondellBasell and Richey Elementary continues to grow. Proof of this evolving partnership was apparent Feb. 11 as nearly 40 volunteers from the Houston-based oil company spent the morning judging science fair projects.
“The science fair is a major highlight for our students each year,” Phyllis Salinas, Richey peer facilitator and science fair organizer said. “This is an amazing bunch. I’m astounded at their commitment and so grateful for their mentorship. Plus, they are a lot of fun.”
The volunteers spent the morning firing off questions to about 100 third and fourth graders stationed beside their projects. Students conducted research using the scientific method – building skills that Glenn Bollman, LyondellBasell’s eldest volunteer, says will benefit students throughout their lives.
“If a child really learns the scientific method, they can apply that knowledge and those skills to anything,” Bollman said.
A graduate of South Houston’s Class of ’65, Bollman remembered volunteering at Richey when it was at its old location and the challenge he faced when he searched for the library.
“When I first started volunteering, most of the students spoke Spanish,” Bollman said. “I picked up some of the language from the students so, I was happy when I learned how to say, ‘Donde esta la biblioteca.’” The phrase translates to “Where is the library?”
The on-going relationship between Richey and LyondellBasell has been mutually beneficial – giving close to 150 volunteers a gratifying experience working with the community while expanding educational opportunities through grant funds, community service efforts and the school’s popular pen pal program.
In May, the school hosts a celebration in which the students and volunteers have the opportunity to meet the faces behind the letters.
“It is such an amazing experience to build a relationship and promote science and math through the writing,” John Finck, LyondellBasell representative said. “It’s daunting knowing that you can have a major impact on a student just through these letters. I can’t wait to meet my pen pal in May.”
Denise Jennings, LyondellBasell’s community relations liaison feels that “when you get the volunteers engaged, they will always want to come back year after year.”
As a member of the Pasadena ISD Education Foundation, Jennings has been instrumental in building the business partnership with LyondellBasell over the years. As a result, Richey has been the recipient of numerous grant donations.
“I give them my deepest gratitude not only as a principal but as mother too,” Andrea Zapata, Richey’s principal said. “My daughter participated in the pen pal program when she was in fourth grade her and I saw as a parent and campus leader, the impact they made in her life. LyondellBasell is making a difference in the lives of all Richey students.”