Event celebrates STEM scholarship recipients

Thursday, June 06, 2019

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MOUNT VERNON -- Mount Vernon High School senior Mixcila Sanchez’s tuition is covered at the University of Washington thanks to a $22,500 Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS), along with other scholarships and grants.

“It’s nice because I didn’t want to have to take out loans or ask my parents for tuition,” said Sanchez, who plans to study microbiology or pre-med when she starts college next year.

Sanchez was one among several WSOS recipients at the Skagit Valley STEM Celebration on June 4, an event honoring the 56 Skagit County students who received more than $1.2 million to pursue STEM and health care degrees in the state through WSOS.

The event -- organized by Skagit STEM Network, EDASC, Skagit Valley College, Skagit County and WSOS -- also brought together local business leaders in STEM fields, educators, lawmakers, nonprofits and industry stakeholders to champion students and spread the word about the value of STEM education in our community.

The WSOS was created to reduce barriers to education and training in STEM careers for the state’s top talent, ensuring the state’s ever-growing economy continues to thrive, according to its website. Skagit County students have been awarded more and more scholarships since 2016, with 2019 being the best year to date.

EDASC CEO John Sternlicht spoke during the event about the importance of supporting students in pursuit of STEM careers.

“Economic development is typically the connective tissue between business and education,” he said. “Businesses should be heavily invested in workforce programs. Students need to understand how these skills are applied in the workplace and the people that are in those jobs need to help those students.”

Because of the event, Skagit STEM Network received more volunteers for mentors, said Skagit STEM Network Executive Director Michelle Judson.

Clive Boulton, science and technology consultant, was one of those interested in mentoring.

“I know how hard it can be to excel in these fields without the influence of someone who’s a good example,” Boulton said. “I want to give back.”

State Senator Keith Wagoner, who also attended the event, said the state’s STEM programs have been an unqualified success.

“I think it’s well known we need technically-oriented employees and that’s what these STEM programs are doing,” he said.

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