June 10th marked the first week of the new Summer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Program at Washington Elementary School in Santa Ana. The program gives students a look into the work of researchers and professionals in STEM fields. Each week of the 5-week program, a different professional introduces their work through an interactive presentation and hands-on activities. The fields represented this year include ecology and evolutionary biology, computer programming, electrical engineering, renewable energy systems, environmental chemistry, and aerospace engineering. During the first week, students observed marine invertebrates in a touch tank, learned how to measure biodiversity, and mapped out a food web.
This summer, our Comunidad Cesar Chavez families participated in a PBS SoCal’s 5-week STEM Parent Academy. During the workshops, both parents and children took part in learning about mathematics and science concepts through the use of technology and PBS KIDS online games, videos, and hands-on activities. Most importantly, our parents also learned strategies to become engaged in their children’s learning at home. In order to provide more access to technology and to further foster a passion for learning, the attending families received tablets from our generous PBS SoCal Partners. Thank you PBS SoCal for providing our families such an unforgettable educational experience. We look forward to continuing our partnership throughout our sites.
Region 10 – South Orange County:
Mathew – To go to the summer camp and share some of our knowledge of the biomedical, engineering, health, and coding fields was a rewarding experience: it put smiles on the kids’ faces, it put smiles on our faces, and overall, kids had a good time doing our hands-on projects. It was amazingly exciting to see our students start to discover new passions and interests while experiencing STEM as a whole.
Ashley – Each day we did a different activity that related to engineering, biomed, health, or coding. Many of the students learned things that they had never seen at school before, including Scratch and K’nex.
Michael – I could already tell that the organization required dedication and and passion. I soon realized the power of teamwork and the possibilities that could arise from the combined goodwill of multiple volunteers.
Jason – There was no doubt that the curriculum — which consisted of engineering, biomed, health, and coding — was exceptional, however, what made this program so successful and the experience worthwhile were the irreplaceable connections made during the course of the three weeks. Given the thier harsh lifestyles, it is not fanatical to presume that education is not their first priority, therefore, such intimate connections between the tutor and the students may be more impactful to the children’s lives than any lecture. I hope that we have comparably influenced the children.
Region 1 – East LA:
Evan Panas – I started tutoring with School on Wheels a little more than 5 years ago when I noticed some free time that could be more productive. I felt SOW offered the best bang for my buck. The greatest part about helping kids is that they’re eager to learn, and information adults take for granted amazes them. They are excited to see you every week. It’s satisfying to provide a little stability in their chaos-ridden lives. Since we do this as a group, I would be remiss to not also thank my fellow tutors Niru Madduri, Alonso Quintero, Brenda Ramirez, and Marisol Sacramento. And a special thanks to Sasana Kachirsky who coordinates at another shelter and is never-ending supply of inspiration. Also, many thanks to our past and present regional coordinators who offer wonderful support to all their tutors: Paula Buxbaum, Marisol Farfan, Daisy Arce, Cecelia Olivas, Louisiana Wermer, and Ian Chan.
Natalie Platon – It’s been lots of fun participating in the Summer Program this year! I’m glad that online tutoring gives me the opportunity to still work with Ethan even though he moved away from Skid Row a few years ago. By using Google Hangouts and our smartphones, we’ve had great discussions about what we’ve read; Ethan is now making more text-to-self, text-to-world, and text-to-text connections and has progressed when it comes to thinking more deeply about the underlying message behind a story. The Summer Program has also motivated him to read more as well, and we’ve read several books so far. Ethan has even gone to the library himself to read more books on his own! I’m very thankful to be able to still connect with and tutor Ethan even though he’s moved several times.
Skid Row Learning Center:
Lisa Yu – I began volunteering because I just want to help out a bit. Being homeless is hard enough but being homeless and trying to keep up with school as well?! Wow, now that’s a challenge. I tutor at the Learning Center so I never know what to expect. Sometimes a student needs help with a math problem. Often, he or she just needs encouragement to power through an assignment. There is nothing like seeing the glow of accomplishment on a student’s face after having just persevered and finished. Other times it has nothing to do with school but with just listening empathetically.
What amazes me is the energy that hits me every time I enter the Learning Center. Wow! I just love the unabashed enthusiasm, curiosity and resilience of these students. At times the energy seems to visibly bounce off the walls. Huge kudos to the resident team that keeps everyone focused! Thank you, School on Wheels, for really taking to heart the “no child left behind” credo.
Region 7 – San Fernando Valley:
Michael Weiser – I am happily married for 38 years and have two beautiful and incredible daughters and one grandson who we all adore. I have had a rewarding 40-year career in the entertainment industry, and have reached a point in my life where I decided that because I have been so fortunate, I need to recognize the opportunities I have had by giving back somehow.
While searching sites for non-profit organizations that might be appealing I stumbled across School on Wheels, and it all felt right. And because of School on Wheels, I have had the opportunity to meet 9-year-old Nikoli, who is an amazing, funny, and a very smart young man who has a real desire to learn. Nikoli loves video games and would like to be a video game developer when he is older. I am honored to have this opportunity to spend time with Nikoli every week, and to see the improvement in his math and handwriting skills!!
Written by Zarina Yunis
Startled by the alarming increase in homelessness in the past year, 12 Latina girls from San Fernando High School have taken it upon themselves to search for ways to help the homeless. These students are part of a program called DIY Girls, which “empowers girls to be confident makers and creators of technology,” according to the DIY (Do It Yourself) Girls’ website.
On a daily basis, these girls witness homelessness on the streets. They wanted to help the homeless families; however, donating money was not an option for their own low-income families. Despite their inability to contribute money, the girls weren’t about to let this obstacle prevent them from helping those who are less fortunate.
“With all the already existing programs in place to help end homelessness, we felt as if something more needed to be done to provide temporary relief to those who are displaced,” Paola Valtierra said in an email interview. Valtierra is a senior at San Fernando High School, and this will be her second year in the DIY Girls program.
Motivated to help the people in their community, the DIY girls got to work. They came up with the idea to create a solar-powered tent that could also function as a backpack. This one item could efficiently serve multiple needs and conserve space. The team of girls met frequently to work on the solar-powered tent, and a year later, they finished designing their prototype.
At times, the competition in the STEM field was intimidating for young Latina women. Evelyn Gomez, the executive director for DIY girls, recalls her experience at UCLA, getting her master’s degree in aerospace engineering. “I was often the only girl in the class and definitely the only Latina in the class. It felt like kind of imposter syndrome,” Gomez says, describing a feeling of chronic self-doubt even in the midst of evident success.
Nonetheless, the girls were determined to make a difference, regardless of their gender or race. They have not only made a positive impact on their community, but they have been role models for many other girls and have inspired them to pursue their passions. “Remember that there will always be obstacles in life but push through them because the outcome will be worth it,” Valtierra said.
Comcast NBCUniversal is committed to working with changemakers and local non-profit organizations that are driving positive change in their local communities by leveraging media, technology and innovation.
The NBCUniversal Foundation, in partnership with NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, launched Project Innovation, a new grant challenge program in 11 markets where NBC and Telemundo-owned stations are located. Through Project Innovation, non-profit organizations that are using technology and innovation to solve everyday problems in their communities will be awarded grants to help support and expand their programs.
The NBCUniversal Foundation will award $225,000 amongst three to eight nonprofits in each of the 11 markets. The NBCUniversal Foundation will work closely with the owned stations to evaluate applications and choose winners in each market.
Apply for a Project Innovation grant by visiting your local NBC or Telemundo station website, in any of the following markets:
Project Innovation grant categories include:
- Igniting Civic Engagement: Programs that provide or expand opportunities for individuals to engage and volunteer in their communities, especially those that – in this digital age – leverage media and technology.
- Skills for the Digital Economy: Programs that support middle-skills jobs training, adult career employment and readiness for advanced skills development programs in an effort to close the gap between education, income and prosperity in local communities.
- STEM/STEAM Youth Programming: Programs that support K-12 youth education by encouraging and training the next generation of workers for advanced careers in STEM or STEAM fields.
Project Innovation expands on NBCUniversal’s commitment to promoting social good in local communities and builds on the success of The NBCUniversal Foundation’s previous grant challenge, 21st Century Solutions, which awarded nearly $6 million to local nonprofits over the past five years. Transitioning to Project Innovation will help The NBCUniversal Foundation continue to tackle important community issues by targeting key areas of importance while allowing for greater flexibility for grant applicants.
Project Innovation is poised to support established non-profits and those recently formed in each of the local markets. Through the program, The NBCUniversal Foundation and local NBC and Telemundo stations will award nearly $5 million over two years (2018 and 2019) to eligible non-profit organizations.
Project Innovation applications open on January 12, 2018, and close on February 2, 2018. Grant winners will be announced in March 2018.