News & Press
SD2 Students Receive Illumina STEM Scholars Award
Applications for the Illumina/SD2 STEM Scholars Award opened in the Fall, and closed in January with a total of 36 student applications. The scholarship was open to all 10th through 12th grade students in San Diego County. Criteria was lean, and committee members looked for a strong interest in STEM as well as a shown dedication to pursuing learning opportunities and “a commitment to character, culture, and community.”
At SD2, we believe collaboration and partnerships are essential to our growth and success. By supporting and building each other up, we make a greater impact on our communities, our cities, and the world at large.
These sentiments drive our mission to partner with local companies who share our passion to support underrepresented students and empower them to be agents of change.
Enter Illumina, a local leading biotech company specializing in DNA sequencing technology and research. At Illumina, their mission is to “improve human health by unlocking the power of the genome” with their innovative sequencing and array technologies.
Illumina, like SD2, is committed to equitable access to STEM education. “By partnering with organizations like SD2, we hope to create a workplace that encourages diversity of both thought and skill, which is essential to helping solve humanity’s biggest challenges through genomics,” says Vanessa Light, Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility at Illumina.
“As a company, we are always looking for ways to empower students in our communities and educate them about the career opportunities available to them,” says Light. “We believe students are the future, and so we created this award with that in mind. We hope to have SD2 students as Illumina employees someday,” shares Light.
Applications for the Illumina/SD2 STEM Scholars Award opened in the Fall, and closed in January with a total of 36 student applications. The award was open to all 10th through 12th grade students in San Diego County.
Criteria was lean, and committee members looked for a strong interest in STEM as well as a shown dedication to pursuing learning opportunities and “a commitment to character, culture, and community.” Students were also asked to share their stories, which gave committee members insights into the struggles students faced while achieving so much. Each award winner received $2,500 to use at their own discretion.
Four winners were selected:
• Umulkheir Sharif, Hoover High School class of 2022
• Evelyn Navarette, Hoover High School class of 2023
• Alejandro Pliego, Rock Academy class of 2023
• Firaol Feyera, Preuss School at UCSD class of 2023
The winners plan on using the funds for a variety of purposes as they close out their high school careers and start planning for college.
Umulkheir is a recent graduate of Hoover High School and will be attending the University of San Diego this fall majoring in Behavioral Neuroscience.
He plans to use the award to help fund a medical assistant program he’s currently enrolled in. “I aspire to be a Physician Associate and plan to work as a medical assistant in college to help accrue hours for PA school,” he says. “This award would provide tremendous support in terms of helping me pay for my course registration fees, books, scrubs, and more.”
Umulkheir heard about the program from his College Advisor from the First Gen Scholars program. “The minute I saw that it was something STEM related, I immediately thought it would be a good fit for me and a way to get my story across about the passion I had for the medical field,” he reflects.
Evelyn, whose favorite subject is science, heard about the award through her mentor at Reality Changers, and she was highly encouraged to apply. “I initially applied because I was seeking financial stability,” shares Evelyn. She plans on saving some of the award money for college and keeping some of it for a summer enrichment opportunity she’s participating in this summer.
Alejandro plans to use the award funds for a variety of purposes as he goes into his senior year at the Rock Academy.
“First, I will set aside an amount for investing and savings, and I will also set an amount for future educational purposes,” says Alejandro. “Going into my final year of high school, it’s the time to explore my college opportunities. I will use a portion of the award to help explore universities to find the one that best suits my interest, a major in biology.”
Alejandro heard about the award through the SD2 Squared Fellows program. “Being encouraged to explore my STEM options through the program has influenced me to seek out more opportunities to further strengthen my future career,” he says.
Firaol, an incoming senior at Preuss Academy whose favorite subject is math, plans to save the award until he gets into a university so he has a better idea of how to best use it. He heard about the award from both SD2 and Reality Changers and is so grateful he did. “I applied because I wanted to be able to focus on my education in college without worrying about money issues coming from a low- income family,” he says.
We are indebted to companies like Illumina that show their support for STEM education, and we wish these students all the best in their future endeavors.
To learn more about Illumina STEM Education programs, visit www.illumina.com/stem.
At SD2, our mission is to empower tomorrow’s STEM leaders today by connecting underrepresented students to the power of STEM, providing them with access to education, mentorship, and the resources they need to lead tomorrow’s workforce. Contact us to learn more about how we are empowering students to explore careers in STEM.