Bench students take in first 'Lunch and Learn' with Exxon refinery coordinator

2013-10-22T17:15:00Z 2013-10-23T08:30:08Z Bench students take in first 'Lunch and Learn' with Exxon refinery coordinatorBy CHRIS CIOFFI ccioffi@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Angelo Perez, 11, didn’t think for half a second when he was asked about what career he wanted to go into.

“I’m going to be a chef, because I can cook,” he said.

He explained that he was not partial to cooking one type of food, he likes all kinds. He also said that was very interested in the cooking process.

“I really like flipping hamburgers,” he said.

The fifth- and sixth-grade classes at Bench Elementary got thinking about their futures as they listened to Christian Petterson, an Exxon refinery coordinator, during the first Lunch and Learn presentation of the new school year.

“It’s a program at other schools, but at Bench it began last year,” said Principal Sandie Mammenga.

Bench has hosted these monthly events with ExxonMobil during the students’ lunch hour, bringing in people who have diverse careers at the refinery.

“In order to make a connection between what you learn in school and what happens in the real world you need to have real people to make the connection and make learning relevant,” Mammenga said.

“As a kid, I had all sorts of role models and examples,” Petterson said.

“If you don’t have a target to set off of, you really don’t know what’s out there,” he said.

As he talked to the lunchroom full of students, he emphasized how going to school for engineering or chemistry can enhance employment prospects.

“If you go into a math- and science-related field,” he said. “There’s a pretty good chance that there’s a good job waiting

for you.”

The Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools finds business partners for schools, and Bench is ExxonMobil’s school, said Jill Quade, human resources manager at ExxonMobil.

“Any way we can help out with a school activity, we try and help out,” she said.

ExxonMobil employees visit Bench to volunteer, participate in the Lunch and Learn program or tutor a couple of times each month.

Julia Mader, 10, was enthusiastic after hearing Petterson’s speech.

“I want to be an aquarium animal caretaker,” she said. “Because I love orca whales and dolphins, and when I went to Sea World it was fun.” She took to heart what Petterson stressed at the end of his presentation.

“What I thought was really important, was he said to love what you do when you grow up,” she said.

“It’s your (life’s) work and you should enjoy it.”

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