With the many challenges facing the world today, the need to prioritise education is greater than ever. For us, supporting education has always been central to our community programme and continues to be a key focus in how we’re living our purpose by building thriving communities to Transform Lives though the Science of Food.
In celebration of International Education Day, we caught up with US-based colleagues Casell Randle and Marcia Petit to find out why they are passionate about living our purpose, supporting education in our local communities and building an inclusive future for all. Here’s what they had to say:
Helping people in need…how did you get started?
Casell: We lead the Black Employee Network – an equity, diversity and inclusion- focused employee resource group - at Tate & Lyle and have a passion for giving back to local communities in a way that supports the next generation.
Marcia: We knew we had to identify where giving back was most needed and saw an opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ from some of our own educational experiences. So, we started by going back to where it started for each of us: school.
That definitely gives a new meaning to ‘back to school’. Can you share some examples?
Casell: We’ve worked with the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences by providing scholarships for Black students who chose to pursue agricultural studies in college for agricultural careers in the workforce. Through Tate & Lyle’s community programme, we were able to sponsor scholarships for numerous students over the course of multiple years. The scholarship funding was a need identified in our initial collaborations with the school – and one that turned a common barrier to prioritising education into an opportunity for furthering education by investing in those students.
Marcia: Unlimited Scholars is another programme we’ve worked with that helps high potential, Black students in Chicago high schools by ensuring college access, engagement, and completion with minimal debt. Our group has worked to provide scholarships, mentorships and participants on career panels for students to gain exposure to a diverse set of career paths.
How do you feel these activities made education more accessible to students?
Marcia: The career panel participation by our employees represented different functions within our business. Typically, a high school learning curriculum wouldn’t expose students to such a diverse set of career paths, and we were able to highlight the deep expertise we have for agriculture and food sciences at Tate & Lyle. I enjoyed seeing their end of week projects and hearing the feedback from the students about the inspiration they gained from their exposure to the panelists.
Accessibility is the first step in prioritising education and we were able to share our knowledge to achieve that win…and unlock potential through inspiring students to pursue education paths they love. – Marcia Petit
What inspires you to invest your time, energy, and/or knowledge in student education?
Casell: Every time I have participated, I’ve learned from the students I’m interacting with during the activity. I know they benefit from the knowledge I’m sharing to widen their exposure to the many possibilities in their future through education, but I am receiving just as much learning benefit back from each of them.
It’s a clear reflection on what happened in my life when I was young and on the receiving end of an organisation giving back by supporting education. My experience as a student expanded my agriculture perspective beyond the farm and into Agribusiness – ultimately making the connections I needed for entry to Florida A&M University and forging the path to a career in agriculture.
The opportunity to give back by prioritising education through investing in students is a true honour. – Casell
Marcia: I’ve always loved to teach and share knowledge that connects to individuals on a personal level. My own two girls fuel me to further promote science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) specifically for youth and girls. When I was young, I went to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for a STEM camp and that sparked the inspiration for my career and I’ve never looked back. Making sure the next generation knows the path for the future is forged keeps me going too.
From your experiences, how does this work contribute to a sustainable future for all?
Marcia: When we started, we went forward with the mindset of selecting schools or organisations that would ‘open doors’ for the future. This allowed us to easily keep Tate & Lyle’s purpose at the forefront of our partnership and identifying what work is needed. We’re also sure to take prioritisation one step further by focusing inclusive, equitable and quality education for Black students.
The contribution to a sustainable future is really two-fold: 1) we can and have reused this process for bringing new possibilities up for action within our Employee Resource Group to continue giving back and 2) every student who walks through one of those ‘open doors’ is starting a new path for their lifelong learning journey and will likely choose to give back to the next generation as well. It all comes full circle.
Casell and Marcia are two of our many colleagues who are helping build thriving communities by living our purpose and giving back where it’s most needed. We’re proud of their and fellow colleagues' work to support education and enable students to achieve their potential. Together, our purpose and our people make us the company we are today.
About International Education Day from the United Nations:
International Education Day is a platform to showcase the most important transformations that have to be nurtured to realise everyone’s fundamental right to education and build a more sustainable, inclusive and peaceful futures. To learn more, please visit https://www.un.org/en/observances/education-day.