Devon Energy Corp. of Oklahoma City is honored in Canada for educational efforts

Devon Energy Corp. earned a Responsible Canadian Energy Award for its efforts to establish a secondary school in the tiny hamlet of Conklin in northern Alberta.
BY JAY F. MARKS jmarks@opubco.com Published: March 30, 2012

High school diplomas have been hard to come by in an isolated hamlet of about 240 people in Alberta, Canada.

Conklin's school only offered classes through the ninth grade, so students had to go to boarding school about two hours away in Fort McMurray to continue their education.

The difficulty of spending the week away from home, living in a city of about 50,000 people and trying to keep up with their studies kept many Conklin teens from earning diplomas.

Devon Energy Corp. officials learned of the problem while establishing operations at the company's nearby Jackfish project in Alberta's oil sands.

The company spearheaded an effort to establish a secondary school in Conklin. Its students are largely Metis, a Canadian aboriginal group.

“While education is not our job, our interests lie in having available local skilled workforce,” said Greg Brady, Devon's vice president of aboriginal relations.

Brady said the company worked with local officials to establish a secondary school in Conklin that would allow students to stay at home while they finish their studies.

It opened its doors in 2010, offering online learning tailor-made for aboriginal students.

“Now we're a full-service school,” Conklin Principal Jack Howell said. “It's fantastic. It's life-changing.”

Howell said there are about 15,000 jobs within 10 miles of Conklin, but the best of those are only available to those with a diploma.

So he is working to boost attendance at the new school, and he speaks glowingly of Devon's contributions.

“Devon has been a wonderful supporter of the education system here,” he said.

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