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Convenience Retailers Motivate Students

TULSA, Okla. and HOUSTON -- Convenience retailers QuikTrip Corp. and ExxonMobil Corp. are motivating students through separate education-based initiatives.

Tulsa, Okla.-based QuikTrip is encouraging students in Tulsa schools to do their school work with coupons for milk and cookies, according to a report by Tulsa World.

"At the beginning of the year, that will be the first thing they ask: 'Will we get coupons this year?'" said Janet Green, a special education teacher at Cooper Elementary School.

QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said the idea began when company officials were thinking of what the retailer could do to help education and give teachers a tool.

Students can redeem the coupons for a pint of Borden milk and one QuikTrip cookie at any of the chain's 64 Tulsa-area stores, the newspaper reported.

Schools can adapt the use of the coupons as an incentive for any kind of reading program. At Cooper Elementary, students can earn a coupon every month or so for receiving passing grades on a certain amount of reading assignments in the school's computer lab.

"When they reach their individual goals, they earn a coupon. It encourages them to actually do the reading, and not just goof off or guess on everything," said Green, who estimated that roughly 85 percent of Cooper's 725 students earn the coupons on a regular basis.

Fourth-grader Cochise Wilkerson is one of the school's top coupon earners. "I love to get a coupon," he told the newspaper. "You go to a nearby QuikTrip to get your own milk and cookie. You can also trade the cookie for a doughnut, of course."

Meanwhile, ExxonMobil wrapped up its 2009 "Dream Tour" yesterday by giving roughly 10,000 Houston area students a first-hand experience with Houston-based former U.S. astronaut Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr. The event -- the final stop of the tour -- also featured appearances by local athletes, ExxonMobil engineers and upbeat performances from local artists, all focused on encouraging students to pursue careers in math and science.

Students from the Alief, Aldine, Fort Bend, Houston and North Forest school districts joined Harris for the two-hour program. The tour, which visited nine other U.S. cities in 2009, is designed to encourage middle school students to realize their potential and strive to acquire strong math and science skills, ExxonMobil stated.

"When I was growing up, I dreamed of traveling in space. Education enabled my dream and now, I would like to encourage students to follow their dreams by pursuing careers in math and science," stated Harris, who made history becoming the first African-American to walk in space in February 1995. "America's students have incredible opportunities. The Dream Tour is one way to open their eyes to the limitless possibilities they have, as long as math and science education are part of the equation," he continued.

In 2008 -- the inaugural year of The Dream Tour -- Harris encouraged more than 8,500 middle school students in Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, St. Louis and Washington, DC.

This year, Harris and The Dream Tour traveled to Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Miami, Mobile, Oakland and Seattle.

"ExxonMobil is focused on the need to attract more of America's students to pursue careers in math and science," stated Gerald McElvy, president of the ExxonMobil Foundation, the primary philanthropic arm of the ExxonMobil Corp. in the United States. "This starts with taking higher level math and science courses in middle school and high school. The classes they choose today can make or break their options for the future, and The Dream Tour is one way to highlight those career possibilities."

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