At Browning Elementary School in north-central Houston, the children’s faces light up when they hear that the Marathon Oil volunteers are coming.
“You can see such joy in their faces,” says Julia Elizondo, principal of the dual-language inner city school north of downtown Houston. “The volunteers make a big difference for our children.”
Part of what makes the connection between Marathon Oil and Browning so special is the longevity of this partnership. Marathon Oil first “adopted” Browning in 1990, and has been involved with the school ever since. Company employees can sign-up to teach a class through the Junior Achievement (JA) program at Browning, volunteer as a reading buddy for kindergarten and 1st grade students or as a pen-pal for a 4th grader, or purchase books for students through the My Home Library program. Marathon Oil also funds the purchase of additional classroom resources, and provides support for student awards and school celebrations such as the Honor Roll and Perfect Attendance program.
Through JA, employees pair up in teams with co-workers to teach a 45-minute lesson once a week for five consecutive weeks. Each team is assigned to a classroom covering kindergarten through 5th grade at Browning. For employees who might not be able to meet the time commitment of teaching JA, the pen-pal program is coordinated each year to help 4th graders develop their writing skills.
My Home Library
New in 2017, we kicked off a project to provide home libraries for nearly 600 Browning students through our partnership with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. In our first year of this effort, employees donated 3,600 books, many volunteer hours and monetary contributions during our annual Workplace Giving Program. As part of the My Home Library program, each Browning student was able to choose six books, which our employees sorted and delivered before the end of the school year in May. This timing is important because students without books often lose critical reading skills over the summer months and begin the new school year behind classmates who read during the summer.
"We are deeply grateful to Marathon Oil and its employees for giving generously of their time and money to ensure that every child at Browning Elementary School received brand new books through our My Home Library program," said Julie Baker Finck, Ph.D., president, Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. "Books are a luxury that many children simply cannot afford, yet they are essential tools children must have to become strong readers."
One Marathon Oil volunteer, Patty, shared: "In my family, books have helped us grow our imaginations and discover new ideas. The My Home Library project aims to ensure that all children can access the many benefits of books from an early age."
Another volunteer, Victoria, said: "I have fond memories of discovering new worlds through read-aloud times with my children. Volunteering with this project was my way of ensuring that all parents have the opportunity to 'give the world' to their children, too."
For all of us at Marathon Oil, the partnership we have with Browning -- and our direct involvement with the students -- is a tangible way to support education and workforce readiness in our community.
Results for the decades-long partnership are clear. Browning Elementary is rated as an “Exemplary School” by the Texas Education Agency, and Elizondo often hears from past graduates who are grateful that they were well prepared for their middle and high school studies.
“I hear it from the secondary principals as well, and from parents,” she points out. “And we rely heavily on Marathon Oil to help us achieve that success.
“The magnitude of what Marathon Oil does for us is just – wow. It’s amazing.”
Additionally, we’re honored that the Houston Independent School District recognized Marathon Oil in 2016 with its “Volunteers in Public Schools Jean Davis Myers Award” for our unique partnership with Browning and many hundreds of hours of volunteer time over the last 25+ years.