High school students learn a variety about oil, natural gas at Tom Dunn Energy Leadership Academy

BUCKHANNON — Almost 40 students from counties across the state learned about the oil and gas industry while attending the annual Tom Dunn Energy Leadership Academy at West Virginia Wesleyan College this week.

Dennis Xander, director of the academy, said it’s an important way to get students thinking about future careers.

“Whether they end up in the oil and gas industry or not, they learn a lot while they are here,” Xander said. “The program was because Tom Dunn cared about the oil and gas industry and education.”

Founded by the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, the academy honors the memory longtime Buckhannon resident and businessman Thomas B. Dunn, who was one of IOGA’s pioneer members.

Students started the three-day academy Monday by getting an intensive overview of the oil and gas industry and its technical aspects, Xander said. Students were walked through the different jobs required to make the industry successful.

The students spent lunch with industry professionals before taking part in a career panel, which gave the students an opportunity to see what jobs the professionals do, Xander said.

“We do it chronologically, so first we have a geologist. In this case, she was a petroleum geologist,” Xander said. “So she told them about how she goes out to prospect to find places and identify areas where they should drill.”

Next was a land person, who finds out who owns the land, then a drilling engineer and so forth.

Xander noted this approach not only teaches students about the different steps required before a well is actually drilled, but also how many people are involved in the process.

On their second day at the academy, the students participated in a three-hour leadership session and spent the rest of the day on a field trip. They visited locations such as the Antero Clearwater Facility in Doddridge County and the MarkWest Sherwood Natural Gas Processing Plant, plus a drilling rig and a producing pad.

On their third day at the academy, students heard presentations from representatives of colleges and vocational schools across the state who discussed options after high school, Xander said. The goal wasn’t to promote the oil and gas industry, but to get the students thinking about their future in general, he added.

Garrett Hobson, 16, of Martinsburg, who is going into his senior year in high school, said he attended the academy because his school counselor suggested it.

“My counselor knows I want to be an engineer, so he thought this would be a good place where I can get some more information,” Hobson said. “This way, I could learn about the specifics of different jobs and get behind the scenes a little bit.”

Hobson said he learned there are more jobs in the oil and gas industry than he was aware of. Though he’s not sure he’ll go into the oil and gas field, he said the academy gave him a lot of information to think about over the next year as he consider colleges to attend.

Tori Tadlock, 17, of Parkersburg, said attending the academy was her mom’s idea.

Tadlock said she’s still undecided about what she wants to do after high school, but she learned a lot of new things during her few days at Wesleyan.

“It was really cool getting to tour everything, visiting and seeing it in real life,” she said. “You never really know what it’s like out there until you get to see it for yourself.”

“Even though I might not go into oil and gas specifically, it’s a great experience, and I was able to make some connections,” Poach said.

This article was authored by Victoria Cann for the Clarksburg Exponent Telegram. Click here to read the article on the publication's website.