Following a casual conversation between a science and technology-focused executive and an instructor with a passion to serve, an idea sparked.
Linda Christopher, Executive Director of the OC STEM Initiative, was chatting with Chris Kent of the Anaheim YMCA After-School Network. Chris teaches AutoCAD, powerful commercial software used for 2D and 3D computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting. They were discussing some of the opportunities his STEM labs and mobile classrooms could provide.
Linda could see immediately how Chris’s specialized teaching could benefit people in pursuing STEM careers: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. She set about writing a grant based on that vision. JP Morgan Chase, which has a representative on the OC STEM board, liked the idea and agreed to underwrite the project. A $20,000 grant was provided through Growth Sector, a nonprofit that provides job training for underserved populations by bringing together employers, community colleges, government and foundations. They would serve as the connecting link for students to next steps.
Considering possible beneficiaries of the innovative partnership, Linda recalled talking with Julia Gifkins, a Resident Services Coordinator at Jamboree’s Mendocino at Talega, at a recent networking event. That's when she connected the dots and saw the potential collaboration with Jamboree, whose residents were a perfect fit for the new program. As pictured above, three Jamboree residents (L to R), Sarosh Akbar, Rana Bahrani, and Angelica Sinajon receive their new laptops as part of OC STEM Initiative’s WATT Program, through the collaboration of partners (L to R) Ben Sanchez, Jamboree Senior Resident Services Coordinator; Chris Kent, Anaheim YMCA After-School Network and AutoCAD instructor; Cheryl Martinez, Student Support Specialist, Growth Sector; Nubia Rocha, VP & Area Manager of OC Business Banking, JP Morgan Chase, and Linda Christopher, Executive Director, OC STEM Initiative.
Traditionally, there’s been a shortage of women in STEM fields, to a greater degree than many other professions. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, women in fields commonly referred to as STEM made up seven percent of that workforce in 1970, a figure that by 2011 had grown to just 26 percent of the science workforce. In a world of increasing diversity, there’s a greater focus on encouraging mentoring and to support women in their education and professional lives.
Ben Sanchez, Jamboree Senior Resident Services Coordinator, took the lead in recruiting Jamboree residents. Information sessions were held onsite at multiple Jamboree communities. Twenty women completed the five-week class hosted by the Orange County Department of Education at their campus in Costa Mesa, California. Upon graduation from the class – known as OC STEM Initiative’s WATT (Women Advancing Through Technology) program – each student was given a new laptop pre-loaded with AutoCAD, and a customized carrying bag.