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Phillips 66 nonprofit partner NEED reinvents itself for COVID era

The National Energy Education Development Project, one of Phillips 66’s largest nonprofit beneficiaries, adapted to the challenges of 2020 by channeling the words that inspired the organization’s creation.

“The education of youth on energy issues is just of fundamental overriding importance,” then U.S. Secretary of Education Charles Duncan said in 1980 after President Jimmy Carter issued a proclamation establishing National Energy Education Day.

The goal was to promote an energy-conscious society after the 1979 oil price shock jolted the nation. Today, Phillips 66 Manager of Social Impact Claudia Kreisle said NEED has moved quickly and creatively to serve students after the pandemic forced schools to go virtual.

“Children can’t take a year off from their education,” Kreisle said. “The team at NEED had to essentially reinvent themselves to continue to provide educators and students the same quality of education they’ve been doing for the last 40 years.”

NEED has launched a series of energy-related lessons on its YouTube channel, shifted its teacher trainings to virtual participation and ramped up marketing on Amazon for its book of experiments, “Energy Lab for Kids.”

“The entire NEED family of sponsors, partners, teachers, students and families came together to help provide some energy in this new reality,” said NEED Executive Director Mary Spruill, who celebrates her 30th year with the organization this year.

Sponsor since 2012

NEED’s work began in March 1980 with the national day of awareness, but as the importance of energy education grew, so did the nonprofit. It works with energy companies, government agencies and organizations to bring balanced energy programs to the nation’s schools.

Phillips 66 has been a corporate sponsor of NEED since 2012 and funds many of its professional development workshops for K-12 teachers. Teachers are trained on the latest energy trends and given education kits, infobooks and other materials to bring back to their classrooms — at no cost to the school. The workshops have been held virtually for the last year, but Phillips 66 also provides a reimbursement for substitutes when teachers attend the workshops in person.

‘Just as important today’

More than 300 educators from 231 different schools have attended Phillips 66 sponsored virtual workshops since the start of the pandemic. That brings the total workshops Phillips 66 has sponsored since becoming a supporter in 2012 to 152. These have pulled in 3,730 educators across 30 states.

“Those educators returned to their classrooms and introduced the NEED materials and curriculum to a staggering 300,000 students,” Kreisle said. “We will continue to do all we can to support the mission of building an energy-conscious and educated society.”