STEM on the rise at PAC

October 19, 2018

Public Relations

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc. (TMMTX) celebrated 15 years since opening the doors of its South Side plant on Friday, Oct. 19, and as a longtime partner of Palo Alto College, TMMTX granted a $15,000 gift to support Palo Alto College's science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiatives.

"We have a long legacy of giving back to our community through our community partners. They're a key part of our commitment to supporting the communities in which we live and we work," said Kevin Voelkel, senior vice president of TMMTX during the celebration. "By being strategic and focusing on key areas, we strive to form meaningful relationships that ultimately strengthen the community."

Financial contributions were awarded to Palo Alto College, University Health System; alternative energy company EPIcenter; and special needs nonprofit Eva's Heroes. The donations made during the celebration bring TMMTX's philanthropic distributions over the last 15 years to a total of $45 million dollars.

Partnerships with corporations like TMMTX, the largest employer in south San Antonio, are critical to Palo Alto College's continued growth. In addition to funding initiatives and scholarships, partnerships provide Palo Alto College students with direct experience through summer internships, job shadowing, and mentoring from industry professionals to help prepare them prior to entering the workforce.

"In August, the jobs numbers hit a new record. Nationally, there are about seven million job openings, and here's the tough part – there's actually not enough trained workers to fill those jobs," said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, at the TMMTX celebration. "What's happening here in San Antonio is the vocational training and workforce development. The hard work begins here locally at our community colleges, high schools that have options for students to study vocational training... help provide a trained workforce to meet the needs of employers like Toyota."

In an effort to support the growing demands in STEM fields in the greater San Antonio region, Palo Alto College has spent several years developing and cultivating its STEM strategy to enhance early educational access opportunities, produce high-caliber programs, and provide scholarships to help increase students' access to STEM programs.

Over the last few years, Palo Alto College has received several competitive grants totaling $6.4 million to enhance STEM accessibility for students pursuing a STEM-related degree through academic resources, scholarships, research, and other activities. A recent five-year, $3.87 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education allowed us to create a new 2,200 square-foot STEM Center within the Brazos Hall building that serves as a central location for STEM programs, services, and academic support, as well as a collaborative space for group study, tutoring, STEM club meetings, peer mentoring, academic advising, career preparation, scholarship information, transfer information, and more.

With respect to early access, specialized high school partnerships with Harlandale ISD's STEM Early College High School and Southwest ISD's CAST STEM high school were championed to allow dually-enrolled Palo Alto College students an opportunity to begin a focused education in a particular STEM career field while earning college credits as early as their freshman year of high school.

Additionally, Palo Alto College began offering free STEM summer camps thanks to a substantial grant that allows children ages 11-17 access to specialized educational opportunities like She Code Connect™, a unique, all-girls summer camp offered in partnership with organizations like Youth Code Jam Coding Camps. Through our calculated grant funding strategy, Palo Alto College has doubled STEM camp offerings from 2017 to 2018, ultimately serving more than 350 students this year.

Local area businesses and chamber of commerce partnerships have also been a priority towards increasing our offerings in STEM. On Saturday, Nov. 3, Palo Alto College will partner with the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for the 9th Annual CORE4 STEM Family Day as part of San Antonio STEM Week. As a free event for the community, CORE4 STEM Family Day provides students and their families to visit a college campus, often for the first time, and participate in hands-on STEM-related activities that help them discover their potential in these areas and show them the exciting aspects of the sciences. To learn more, visit alamo.edu/pac/CORE4STEM.

The opportunities for our community to see the many different types of STEM careers that are available can help drive the passion of San Antonio's future workforce. Whether students ultimately seek a career in a STEM field or pursue another passion, Palo Alto College's collective focus will continue to provide all students with every resource possible to be successful throughout their educational journey in preparation for their future careers.