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Connecting Students, Industry to Launch STEM Careers

October 3, 2018 | Danielle McNamara

More than 200 diverse and driven undergrads descend on downtown Los Angeles in a step towards becoming the diverse leaders of tomorrow’s tech and engineering workforce.

MESA’s Student Leadership Conference brings together hand-picked engineering and computer science students with industry professionals to develop the next generation of STEM leaders.  Held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel Oct. 5-6, this year’s conference theme is A Bounty of Homegrown Talent.  

Both students and companies benefit from the conference: students network and gain the soft skills needed to be well-rounded employees; companies gain access to talented, diverse candidates for internships and employment.

Companies recognize the importance of engaging with and supporting our students — so much so they fully fund the conference with donations.  These enlightened corporate partners understand these are not simply underserved and underrepresented students, they are an underutilized pool of talent that has been long overlooked.  Companies simply cannot afford to ignore this talent pool.

This year’s partners and sponsors include: Applied Materials, Cisco, Southern California Gas Company, San Diego Gas and Electric, Intuit, California Resources Corporation, PG&E and Edison International

Miriam Aguirre, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Skillz, a worldwide leader in mobile eSports, is the conference keynote speaker. 

Unlike job fairs or speaker-only conferences, MESA students get the unique opportunity to interact one-on-one and in small groups with company executives, engineers and recruiters. Many leave the conference with internship offers that lead to full time employment. Students participate in mock interviews, communications, team building, emotional intelligence and financial literacy workshops.

Never Settle: An Alumni Profile

September 12, 2018 | Danielle McNamara

“My parents came to America and decided to settle in San Jose California because a relative lived there. We shared a two bedroom apartment with my uncle and my father’s friend — there was about 7 people living there. My father was always working two jobs so I hardly got to see him.


“In my freshman year of high school my father passed away from alcoholism. It was a great tragedy when my father passed away and this broke our family apart. I remember going to the garage and punching my punching bad until my knuckles started bleeding. I couldn’t believe my father was gone. I felt alone, betrayed and broken. I became very selfish and was attracted to the gang life style. Instead of helping my mom and the rest of my family, I left them for this so called brother hood.”


Jeffrey was kicked out of school and entered the juvenile justice system before he realized he wanted more in life. He was able to graduate through a continuation school and started attending Cosumnes River College in Sacramento where he found MESA.


“MESA helped me get out of my comfort zone. I remember walking into (Cosumnes River College MESA director) Mr. Carney’s office asking him tips on how to dress up for a conference that I had the opportunity to attend. I was so nervous. I had never dressed up unless I had to go to court or church.


“MESA provided me with my own business cards and help me prepare my resume. Never in a million years did I think I would sit down with big name agencies and companies such as NASA, Raytheon, Caterpillar and even Google and talk about my future. I was nervous but I remember Mr. Carney telling me just be genuine and be yourself. In the end I grew as a person and my passion to pursue a higher education grew.”


Now Jeffrey is a third year aerospace engineering major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He wants to work on the structural design of spacecraft for a company like SpaceX or Raytheon. He said the MESA family helped him realize he can achieve his goals and gives the same advice to other students (including his younger brother who just completed middle school).


“Don’t give up. I know many of you have heard this over and over in your lifespan, but it’s true. Think about a moment when you were dedicated to something, but you had all these obstacles in the way.


“In my case, I was a full fledged gang member destined to spend the rest of my life behind bars or dead. However, even though everyone was against me, I pursued my dreams. I smiled at all the negativity I was facing and turned it around. I knew I could do more in life and all I had to do was not give up. Not only did I not give up, I made an impact. I left my community college with seven degrees, four scholarships, highest honors and acceptance to Cal Poly.


“Life is what you make it. Dream big and never settle for less.”

Stars Align for MESA Alum

August 9, 2018 | Danielle McNamara

Things keep looking up (way up) for MESA alumnus Victor Glover.

NASA announced this month Glover is one of the crew set to fly on SpaceX and Boeing spaceships. These will be the first major flights on commercial craft by NASA astronauts and the first time astronauts have traveled to space from American ground since the Space Shuttle program ended. 

This will be Victor’s spaceflight debut, but as a Navy commander, Naval aviator and test pilot he’s got almost 3,000 hours flying in more than 40 different aircraft, 400 carrier landings and 24 combat missions under his belt.

“Every moment in this experience is going to be the first so I’m really looking forward to it,” Victor said after the announcement. 

Crewed flight are scheduled to begin in 2019. Victor will be aboard the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft atop the Falcon 9 rocket headed to the International Space Station for a long-duration mission. 

Victor launched his career with MESA as a fifth grader when he competed in MESA Day contests. Applying the math and science concepts gave him early interest in being an engineer, but he gained even more as an engineering major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He would visit local middle schools to tutor MESA students in physics concepts through projects like mousetrap cars and egg drops. Helping students understand “Why do I need to learn this?” solidified his love for both math and giving back. 

He continues to be an inspiration to MESA students. He was named the 2016 MESA Distinguished Alum and addressed students about MESA’s impact and the need for diversity in STEM fields. 

“The New Face of STEM? That’s you guys — it’s all you. And from where I stand, you guys look great.”

We’re so proud Victor is part of the MESA family! We’ll stay posted on his cosmic course.

Oracle Opens Door to Computer Science Careers

August 1, 2018 | Danielle McNamara

Oracle continues to expose students to computer science skills and careers through its longtime relationship with MESA.


This summer MESA conducted 4 JAVA programming camps at UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside, and Imperial Valley thanks to a generous grant from Oracle. Students learned the basics of JAVA and put their newfound knowledge to use in fun ways such as creating video games, designing websites, and making music. Students also got a chance to tour UC campuses, meet MESA alumni and current college students pursuing degrees in computer science, as well explore career options by visiting local companies that rely computer science graduates, including Procore and Lockheed Martin. 


Overall, fifty-four percent of the students were female, 64 percent qualified for free/reduced lunch and 78 percent would be the first in their family to go to college. 


The coding fun will continue into the fall. Camps will be held at CSU Fresno and San Diego State as well as follow up Saturday Academies at all five sites throughout fall 2018, targeting additional middle and high school students, as well as workshops for parents and teachers.


Saturday Academies will focus on incorporating components on robotics, cybersecurity, other programming languages such as Python, in addition to exposing students to a variety of career options by connecting students with MESA alumni who have computer science careers. 


The grant builds on years of support and collaboration between MESA and the tech giant. Oracle Academy has also supported Java trainings for teachers, summer coding camps for MESA students and Alice and Greenfoot coding competitions. Oracle has funded MESA teachers attending computer science education conferences and the Oracle Education Foundation organized web-based problem-solving competitions for MESA students. 


Since 2013, Oracle has awarded MESA more than $130,000 and furthered the commitment to uplift computer science education for underserved students. 


A focus on computer science exposure in low-performing schools is a key tenant of MESA’s mission to provide high-quality science, technology, engineering and math curriculum to educationally disadvantaged students. We thank Oracle for their commitment in helping us achieve that goal.