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Release No. COC-12.14.15-STEMConference
December 14, 2015

STEM Students Connect at Silicon Valley Leadership Conference 

A group of College of the Canyons students participated in an invitation-only conference for math-based majors held in Silicon Valley — the country’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) innovation hub.

The 12th Annual Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Student Leadership conference, themed “Celebrating 45 Years of STEM Success,” was held earlier this fall in Santa Clara. 

The group of handpicked MESA students, representing 38 universities and community colleges from across the state, interacted with industry mentors and special guest speakers to develop their own leadership skills.

Representing COC were MESA students Anthony Pamintuan, Noryn Rosario, Mackenzie Thurston and Julio Zamora. Funding for the group’s participation was sponsored by Southern California Gas and Edison International.

In addition, the student leadership conference was fully sponsored by industry donations. Edison International was the lead sponsor with additional funding from AT&T, Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric and Southern California Gas.

“Most schools are invited to send two students to participate in this opportunity,” said Eric Lara, Director of the COC MESA program. “It speaks volumes that COC was one of only a few community colleges to participate, and we sent twice as many students as most of the other schools. 

“The four students selected come from a variety of backgrounds and majors,” added Lara, “and I knew that this conference would take their leadership skills to the next level by placing them out of their comfort zone. A major goal of the MESA program at College of the Canyons is to introduce our students to the outside STEM world, including conferences like this.”

At the event students participated in mock interviews, connected with industry representatives, listened to guest speakers and attended a variety of workshops designed to help build “soft skills” as a key to shaping well-rounded STEM professionals.

“The conference allowed me to expand my network of professionals and fellow students with similar interests in the engineering field,” said Anthony Pamintuan, member of MESA and President of the COC Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). “I had the experience of being interviewed by a chemical engineer from the Southern California Gas Company which exposed me to the types of questions companies from the industry are likely to ask in a real world situation.”

The national MESA program promotes STEM success for more than 28,000 educationally disadvantaged secondary, community college and four-year college students in California through project-based learning, academic counseling and exposure to STEM careers, with the hopes that they graduate from college with math-based degrees. 

It’s estimated that approximately 70 percent of MESA high school graduates statewide went directly to college after graduation compared to 48 percent of all California graduates. Approximately 60 percent of high school MESA students will go on to pursue math, science or engineering majors, while 97 percent of MESA community college students eventually transfer to four-year college as STEM majors.