Remarks Delivered at Inaugural Mentorship Academy Class Graduation Ceremony

CNX Resources President and CEO Nick Deiuliis delivered the following remarks to the inaugural CNX Foundation Mentorship Academy Class at their June 1, 2022, graduation ceremony.
The ceremony represented not only a significant milestone for students, but also affirmed the pioneering initiative’s concept: provide urban and rural youth from economically disadvantaged communities with greater opportunities and a bridge to family-sustaining careers that do not require a college degree.
Following this successful first year, the Academy is now working to expand the program to ensure every school district in every disadvantaged community in the region is aware of its offerings and format. CNX Foundation envisions the program being replicated by others in Appalachia, resulting in a stronger, more prosperous middle class.

Good evening friends, colleagues, mentors, parents, partners—and most importantly—Academy students.

We could, and we should, spend time thanking and acknowledging a host of different people and groups who made the past year possible.

Partner companies like Alex Paris Contracting, Deep Well, Ferry Electric, Evolution, Chef Claudy at the EAT Initiative, Eaton, Shell, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Aramark, AEG, and Bettis Brothers. All the local building trades have been awesome partners: the Steamfitters, Iron Workers, Electrical Workers, Operating Engineers, and Carpenters. This year would never have been the success it was without you taking the time out to highlight the career opportunities awaiting these students in western Pennsylvania.

We also need to express our gratitude to two regional community colleges that played a pivotal role in this inaugural class: the Community College of Beaver County (CCBC) and the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). Dr. Bullock, the President of CCAC, has been a valued advisor to me this past year and his team continually help us to ultimately deliver on what we initially propose. That is important because I tend to commit to things that every once in a while are great ideas with much potential, but that require expertise in the real world to bring home. Our regional community colleges have that exact type of expertise. I went from liking our regional community colleges to loving them. CCAC and CCBC are regional crown jewels.

We also need to thank the glue of this effort, the mentors that invested that valuable face time with the students not just at the scheduled events, but more importantly offline in the time between the scheduled events. Mentors like Jamal (also one of the Academy’s originators), Coach Bud, Coach T, Krista, Shawnie, Lee, and Tom. CNX coworkers who stepped up as mentors: Dan, Tracy, Joan, and Shilpa. I work with the best people in the world, and these four who put the extra time in to serve as mentors have set a new bar for what it means to be working alongside exceptional people. They motivate me to perform even better.

And of course, we need to thank the CNX Foundation and its Board of Directors for providing the resources to be able to run an effective program across a significant period of time.

However, when preparing for this evening’s event, the Academy leadership team decided there would be plenty of time after today to thank these partner groups and individuals. Today is dedicated to these students.

They are, you are, the ‘why?’ that gave us the guts, or naivety, to try this out. And their/your success through the past year’s program is the reason why we are here today. To celebrate them. To celebrate you.

Where do you start when it comes to the young men and women of our inaugural Academy class? I see a series of comparisons and contrasts. How they came in this past August, and where they are now.

  • Then: Their heads were down and noncommunicative. Pretty quiet bunch at first. Now: Heads are held high and expressive. That makes an awesome first impression to anyone meeting you.
  • Then: Anxious and apprehensive. Now: Cautiously confident. I love that term ‘cautiously confident’ because these students don’t have confidence bordering on arrogance, but instead that all-important balance of thinking things through with running down what’s next. That balance will serve you well through life.
  • Then: Unaware of who they can be professionally. Now: Self-aware of options in front of them.
  • Then: Didn’t know what opportunity sits in this region for them beyond their zip code. Now: Eyes wide open on career paths all over this region.
  • Then: I remember saying how we were going to build a resume and half the students looked at me and replied, “What’s a resume?” Now: Not only do you have resumes, but, more importantly, you sport resumes that have substance, are stacked with great content, and that are superior to 90+% of who you will compete with for career opportunity. And remember what we discussed: that resume is not a one-and-done thing. Instead, it is a process that never ends. Always be on the lookout to develop a new skill, pursue a new experience, and volunteer for a new effort. All of these can be added to and supplement what is already an impressive resume. Your resume is your life’s work.
  • Then: A limited network when it came to regional players. Now: A regional network that would make a more experienced professional envious. The people and entities you now know that will vouch for you, that will open a door for you, are about as good as it gets for anyone, including individuals ten years older than you.
  • Then: Reactive and waiting. Now: Proactive and first movers. You are leaders.
  • Then: No one knowing anyone else, with an exception or two. Now: A tight group of friends moving forward. My hope is that you keep in close contact and continue helping each other out twenty years from now. Stay close to your classmates, you are all going places.

And the most important difference of all? Today you have a room full of lifelong supporters that will be there when you need us, stand by you, assist you, advise you, and be there for you.

But this a two-way street, you see. You have a crucial part. No, check that, you have the most important part. Your job, students, is to make the most of what is in front of you. To grab ahold of that potential and convert it into something tangible. For you and your self-interest: this is the time for you to be selfish and achieve. Because to the extent you are and do so, you will pull along in your successes your family, your community, and this region we all love.

I know you all too well now. I know you have what it takes. I know that you know you have what it takes. So, if it doesn’t happen from here forward, that would be a shame. This is not a drill. This is life. You get one shot. Time to make the most of it.

And you will hit roadblocks, experience setbacks, and stumble from time to time. Chasing excellence and pursuing achievement demands these things happen from time to time. Overcoming adversity is part of the journey. Like Coach V once said: “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” You just keep doing.

I’ve been around this company now for over thirty years, and I was just a little bit older than you when I started here. I lived my entire life in this great region. I look at you and I see me. You are me. I am you. Want to know why this region is the greatest place in the world and why I stayed here? Look around this room at these great people. Question answered.

I look at you and I see me. You are me. I am you. Want to know why this region is the greatest place in the world and why I stayed here? Look around this room at these great people. Question answered.

Launching the Academy, getting to know you, and seeing everyone’s unique development has been one of the greatest things I have been part of in 32 years—and I have been fortunate to have been a part of many great things. I thank you for letting me and CNX and the rest of us to become part of your world. From everyone here today, we love you. And we are just getting started.

You’re going to receive a diploma and memento. The memento has a quote on it that I ask you remember and consider as a credo in the coming years. It’s short and sweet. It says: “To be is to do.” The person who said it in the 1700s was one of the great all-time minds: Immanuel Kant. No one talks much about him these days, but that guy started what is known as the Enlightenment, a movement that vastly improved the human condition and played a big role in why we enjoy what we do today. That simple sentence from hundreds of years ago provides just about all the philosophy you will need this summer, next year, and the next thirty years of your career.

Yeah, like another great mind from a while ago once said, this is not the end. This isn’t even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning. Get out there and go do.

The Mentorship Academy is an initiative of CNX Foundation and part of CNX’s commitment to investing in its local community. Designed for high school students who do not plan to immediately attend a four-year college, the Academy is focused on providing urban and rural youth from economically disadvantaged regional Appalachian communities with greater opportunities—helping provide these young adults a bridge to family-sustaining careers. Following the mentorship program, students will have developed new relationships with peers and business leaders across western Pennsylvania, a new excitement for the region’s career opportunities and an understanding of how to pursue those careers.

Remarks Delivered at Inaugural Mentorship Academy Class Graduation Ceremony