$75,000 APS Foundation grant supports STEM outreach programs at local community colleges

A large group of people in royal blue t-shirts posing along with a couple of executives. Students from North High, Central High, and Phoenix Coding Academy with Phoenix College faculty and staff, and Intel Deputy Director of US Corporate Affairs, Gabriela Gonzalez, at the 2018 Hermanas Conference. MESA, Arizona -- Nov. 17, 2021 -- The Arizona Public Service Foundation awarded a $75,000 grant to the Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation to support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs at Mesa Community College, Chandler-Gilbert Community College, Estrella Mountain Community College and Phoenix College. The largest portion of the grant, $35,000, benefits STEM-focused, mentored, work-based experiences for underrepresented STEM students at Phoenix College; $17,200 supports the annual Girls Get It! conference sponsored by Mesa Community College, and $22,800 supports the Hermanas program at Estrella Mountain Community College and Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

This year Girls Get IT! is slated for Nov. 19 at [Mesa Community College/Maricopa IT Institute-East Valley-revised location] and is open to 150 female 9th-12th grade students within the Mesa Public Schools and 60 professional women from various industries around the Valley. Nine breakout sessions will cover gaming, nanotechnology, networking/AI, cybersecurity and more. Keynote speaker is Fredi Lajvardi, program manager for the Marine Science Magnet program at Carl Hayden High School, where he leads the Falcon Robotics Team, an extracurricular STEM program that has received national and worldwide attention.

Participants explore a full range of educational and professional opportunities available for women in IT and make connections by engaging with other girls and young women interested in studying or already working in the field of IT.

“Women are vastly underrepresented in terms of STEM education and careers,” said Diane Meza, Director of the Maricopa Information Technology Institute-East Valley (MITI-EV), which sponsors the event. “We’re working to address the community’s educational attainment and workforce development.”

The Maricopa County Community College District Hermanas conferences seek to impact the diversity of the STEM workforce by introducing STEM careers and education to approximately 700 middle and high school Latina female students. Since its inception in 2005, Hermanas has served more than 6,500 students from more than 50 schools across Maricopa County.

“Young Latina girls aren’t aware of the opportunities in technology. They don’t realize that it’s an option,” said Hermanas Program Manager Maria Reyes. “This is a segment of our population that is most at risk of being unprepared to enter the workforce of the future.”

Marychuy Velarde, guest speaker at a previous Hermanas Conference at Estrella Mountain Community and a System Validation Engineer from Intel, shared her story about being the youngest of nine siblings in a Hispanic family and wanting a job that didn’t exactly fit with her culture. Velarde wanted to be an engineer.

“I wanted to figure out how things worked, solve problems, and make things better for those around me,” she said.

She stressed the importance of getting a college degree, whether in STEM or another field, and said after she got hers, her nieces and nephews followed in her footsteps.

The third program funded by the APS grant supports STEM-focused mentored, work-based experiences for approximately 200 underrepresented STEM students at Phoenix College. The goal of this effort is to increase interest, persistence, and completion rates in STEM degrees and certifications, expanding the STEM workforce pipeline -- providing students with soft skills training including communication, teamwork and project management ensuring they are well-prepared for workforce success. The project aims to develop a model for community colleges to establish faculty-mentored research and work experiences that increase student graduation and entry into STEM career pathways.

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Contact: Dawn Zimmer, (480) 461-7892, Dawn.Zimmer@mesacc.edu

APS serves more than 1.3 million homes and businesses in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties, and is a leader in delivering affordable, clean and reliable energy in the Southwest. The company is committed to serving customers with 100% clean power by 2050. As owner and operator of Palo Verde Generating Station, the nation’s largest producer of carbon-free electricity, and with one of the country’s most substantial renewable energy portfolios, APS’s current energy mix is 50% clean. Learn more at aps.com.

The APS Foundation supports programs that enhance academic achievement in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Since 1981, the Foundation has invested more than $44 million in projects throughout Arizona that help prepare students to compete in a 21st century economy. A workforce proficient in STEM skills is critical to attracting and retaining high-quality businesses and industries to the state. The APS Foundation targets projects that help educators increase content knowledge in STEM subjects as well as the ability to transfer this knowledge effectively to students. Learn more at aps.com/foundation.

The Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation (MCCF), with its donors and partners, supports the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD), its students, faculty, and staff through scholarships, programs, equipment, and financial and human capital. MCCF is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization designated by MCCCD to receive and manage gifts on behalf of its 10 colleges. Visit mcccdf.org to learn more.

Estrella Mountain Community College is one of the ten colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the nation. A Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), EMCC offers academic courses leading to associate degrees, university transfer, certificates, and short-term job training to more than 14,000 students annually. The flagship campus is located on Thomas and Dysart roads in Avondale. Classes are also offered online and at the EMCC @ West-MEC Southwest Campus at 500 N. Verrado Way, Buckeye.

MITI-EV is a collaboration between Chandler-Gilbert Community College, Mesa Community College, Rio Salado College and Scottsdale Community College to meet the emerging technological workforce’s demand for talent in the areas of blockchain app development using Swift/Xcode, big data, gaming, cloud computing, mobile and wearable technology, and the Internet of Things.

Mesa Community College is nationally recognized as an Aspen Prize Top 150 U.S. Community College and is known for service learning, career and technical programs, civic engagement and innovative approaches to education. For more than 50 years, the college has served as a resource for career readiness, transfer education, workforce development and lifelong learning. Host to more than 30,000 students annually, MCC offers degree and certificate programs at its two campuses, additional locations and a combination of online formats. Through Guided Pathways with Integrated Support Services and a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, MCC is transforming how it champions student success, college completion, university transfer and career attainment and advancement. MCC is a Hispanic Serving Institution and nearly 50% of its students are the first in their families to attend college. Its American Indian Institute serves students from the 22 federally recognized tribes of Arizona as well as out-of-state tribes. MCC has the largest indigenous student population of all the Maricopa Community Colleges. The diverse student body includes more than 300 international students from 55 countries. Award-winning faculty are dedicated to student success, providing the education and training that empowers MCC students to successfully transfer to a university or compete in the workforce. Located in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona, on the traditional territories of the O'odham, Piipaash and Yavapai Peoples, MCC is one of 10 colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District. Visit mesacc.edu to learn more.

Maricopa Community Colleges are individually accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) is an EEO/AA institution and an equal opportunity employer of protected veterans and individuals with disabilities. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or national origin. A lack of English language skills will not be a barrier to admission and participation in the career and technical education programs of the District. MCCCD does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age in its programs or activities. For Title IX/504 concerns, call the following number to reach the appointed coordinator: (480) 731-8499. For additional information, as well as a listing of all coordinators within the Maricopa College system, visit www.maricopa.edu/non-discrimination.

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Publication Date: 
Monday, November 15, 2021