Kelly Sloan, The Business Times
A Mesa County program that teaches students about voting and civic responsibilities has received what one official called a financial “lifeline” in a $15,000 donation from WPX Energy.
“This means everything to us right now. We were down to nothing,” said Rachel Schowalter, president of Kids Voting of Mesa County.
Martha Graf, executive director of the organization, said the WPX contribution will make a big difference.
“Our annual budget is $50,000, so receiving a check this big will make up a big chunk of that. Hopefully, this will keep us afloat,” Graf said.
Jeff Kirtland, community affairs representative for WPX, presented the check at an event designed to raise awareness and funding for Kids Voting.
Schowalter said the event was staged in part to gauge community support for Kids Voting and to determine if the program could continue in light of reduced funding in the wake of a languishing economy in Western Colorado.
Launched in 1996, Kids Voting of Mesa County involves a total of about 23,000 students in three school districts in Mesa County. Students learn civic lessons through classroom activities, family discussions and actual voting experiences.
Schowalter and Graf said Kids Voting ultimately benefits local businesses.
Schowalter said the program teaches young people to make informed decisions about government and life as well as the importance of supporting candidates who support their interests.
Graf said the program teaches critical thinking and analysis skills that make students good workers and lead them to make good economic decisions.
Kirtland said that was exactly why WPX Energy offered support to Kids Voting. “There is great value in having informed, critically thinking voters that make decisions based on facts and reality,” he said.
“It is different than listening to the headlines or talk shows or pop artists educate them on politics,” Kirtland added. “This is about teaching kids to think ahead.”
Kirtland said he hopes his company’s donation won’t be the last to Kids Voting of Mesa County.
“We challenge our other business partners in the energy industry to support Kids Voting for the same reasons we did,” he said. “It is important for our survival as a business in the energy sector.”
“We hope this serves as an inspiration to other businesses,” Graf said. “WPX would not have made this investment if they did not see value in it.”