Honoring Black History Month by inspiring students to read

Williams employees are recognizing Black History Month by honoring history and culture while helping students prepare for the future through a love of reading.

The Williams Black Employee Resource Group is planning various activities during February, including book drives in several locations to benefit area students.

In Tulsa, employees are collecting books to fill the reading corner at the historic Ben Hill Community Center, where the Reed Community Foundation offers after-school and summer activities for youth.

“We want to fill the shelves for them with books appropriate for elementary and middle school,” said Aaron McClain, an engineering and construction project manager. “And we are planning a volunteer day to read to the kids to show them that reading is fun and important to their future success.”

Aaron McClain and Carmen Miller

In Pittsburgh, design engineer Carmen Miller also has organized a book drive to support K-12 literacy for the Cornell School District, which has benefited from previous employee book drives.

“Last year, we donated more than 50 books, and we hope to provide another 75 this year,” she said. “This effort is important to me because I know that reading is foundational for student achievement.”

Miller said literacy is a critical skill for students because without it, all other learning is curtailed, which is why she worked hard to teach her kids to start reading by the age of 3. Literacy allows students to grasp important concepts and gain a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Pairing literacy with honoring Black History is natural because both involve stories that are passed down through generations, Carmen said. “For me, a lot of culture gets lost when it’s not shared.”

Employees in other locations also are collecting books for local students.

Additionally, the Black ERG is planning employee education and networking events during Black History Month, including a Q&A session for employees with Williams Board Member Jesse J. Tyson, who is retired as President and CEO of ExxonMobil Inter-Americas and the National Black MBA Association.

February is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans and reflect on the progress the nation is making and what we can do to forward our work toward equality and inclusion for our Black colleagues and neighbors, McClain said

“It’s a focused opportunity for us to recognize the historical contributions and culture of Black Americans, while looking ahead to future progress.”

Also falling during Black History Month this year are Martin Luther King Jr. Day parades in Houston and Tulsa, which were rescheduled from January because of inclement weather. The Black ERG is coordinating employee participation in those events.