Op-Ed: Standing with Oil and Natural Gas
The president and CEO of Tennyson Center for Children describes the profoundly positive impacts this sector has had on the community
My phone rings and my reception says, “A young woman just walked in and would like to speak with you. She was at the Tennyson Center for Children when she was a child…”
I immediately jump.
Meetings can wait.
Many young adults whose healing journeys included Tennyson – formerly known as Colorado Christian Home – return to connect dots between their childhood and their lives today. They always want to see their “old room” in our cottages and the classrooms where they studied. Tears inevitably flow and children currently with us are always inspired as the message that “You can succeed, just like I have” touches that remarkably resilient strength that is the hallmark of the children at Tennyson.
At some point, we sit and talk about their lives now.
While the stories vary, and their careers are assorted, we are always startled by how often returning adults highlight their jobs in Colorado’s oil and natural gas industry.
The oil and natural gas industry has been fueling Colorado, our nation and the world for decades. This sector has also stood with the communities in which it is planted and the children of those communities in profound ways, fueling healing and reintegration along the way.
Walk through the doors of Tennyson and you will see members of the oil and natural gas industry working with children in astounding ways. This group shows up, in droves, and models healthy adult behavior with a population of children whose experiences with adults have been anything but healthy. I often have children come up to me after their visits and speak of their oil and natural gas friend who looks them in the eyes, remembers their names and engages them in a way that unleashes their talents.
Tennyson has a volunteer program that helps children heal. In 2018, the oil and natural gas industry provided the largest number of corporate volunteers to Tennyson.
The oil and natural gas industry has also allowed us to engage in a profoundly new way in counties outside greater Denver. Thanks to their support, we have been able to build creative programs that help children and families heal in counties like Weld and Larimer.
As a result of our partnership with the energy industry, we have localized solutions in ways that have reduced out-of-home placements, kept children in schools and dramatically reduced hospitalizations and police contacts. All of this makes for healthier families, a stronger community and a more vibrant Colorado. These interventions save Coloradans money and allow first-responders to focus on other needs.
This work would be impossible without the support of the oil and natural gas industry.
And as so many returning adults attest, the sector employs adults whose journeys included stints at places like Tennyson. Unemployment among children who “age out” of the child welfare system hovers at 47 percent – in a country with less than 4 percent unemployment. The energy community stands up for adults whose childhood journeys were disrupted and gives them a place to work, a community of colleagues who support one another and a purpose for ensuring Colorado’s energy and economic future.
The oil and natural gas industry is a robust part of our rich Colorado community. It fuels our lifestyles, it has had profoundly positive impacts on reducing greenhouse gas emissions across our state (a somewhat untold story, sadly) and its alliances with causes like Tennyson help show how business can be a driver of profoundly positive social and economic change.
Our meetings with former Tennyson travelers always ends with reflections on these adults’ complex journeys. They speak about how they are still healing, showing up at home and work proudly, and how they are trying to chart new paths for their children that breaks generational cycles of violence that swirled too strongly for them as children. They admit that they rarely let people know they were “systems kids” as the stigma from that journey remains, a common refrain of many whose journeys mirror theirs. And they always end by saying “I need to get back to work”.
The oil and natural gas industry relentlessly stands with children and families experiencing trauma in our state, and helps traumatized children heal as adults by welcoming them into their professional community. This support weaves our communities together in deep ways, and models corporate excellence.
We are transformed by these interactions, and moved deeply as former Tennyson travelers head off to work.
Edward D Breslin is the president and CEO,at the Tennyson Center for Children.