When Chinook Public Schools Superintendent Jay Eslick was asked to meet in the Chinook High School gym on Thursday afternoon he didn’t know why or that he would end up with an over-sized check for $40,000 for the district.
As he came through the doors to the darkened gym, he initially looked worried at the hundreds of people in the bleachers before the lights were flipped on and they all applauded the good news he was about to hear.
Devon Energy has been, in honor of its own 40th anniversary, presenting a gift of $40,000 to eight school districts across the country, in the states the company does business. The Chinook school district was the only Montana recipient.
Students from every classroom in Chinook watched with several faculty, community members and Devon Energy employees as Eslick and Chinook Public Schools were presented with the large check. Some students organized in the middle of the gym performed a cheer for Devon.
“Today is a total surprise to me,” Eslick said. “I don’t know how they pulled that off, with all the kids in the gym, quiet.”
The grant is a part of Devon’s “$40K for Kids” initiative that spans seven states from Louisiana to Utah.
To apply for the grant, organizations had to be schools or non-profits dealing with K-12 education in an area that Devon Energy works.
Six such organizations applied in Montana and, after interviews and site visits, Chinook was the only one chosen.
“We are honored to give this education grant to Chinook Public Schools,” John Skoyen, pipeline and construction foreman for Devon Energy, said. “Our company places great value in organizations that are innovators in education and working to create the next generation of leaders. This kind of community partnership is a win-win all around.”
Eslick may have been initially shocked, but he quickly shifted to excitement over what this money will mean for Chinook schools and students.
“I’m obviously thrilled that we’re the recipients of this money,” Eslick said. “We’re going to put it to good use. We’re going to use it to expand our science curriculum, our science labs, our hands-on labs. We’re going to put some more labs in our elementary school, so students can better be exposed to that.”