Grant helps students dream of space

A recent award of a $129,000 STEM grant to Olympic College will assist a program that helps students enter careers in the scientific fields.

The STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, grant will go to help the college’s MESA program. The MESA Program, or Mathematics, Science, Engineering and Achievement, assists some STEM students who statistics show are underrepresented in STEM fields such as women, low-income students and those who are the first in their families to attend college.

The MESA program is funded through the National Science Foundation and is run by OC program manager and instructor Jodi Carson.

For Olympic College student Diana Biedenbach the recent award of the grant to the college will help her reach her dream of making the world a better place.

Biedenbach said she plans to earn her associate of science degree from the college and then attend the University of Washington’s civil engineering program.

She said she plans to work in the area of water quality to ensure that people have safe clean water.

“I just want to help people and make the world a better place,” Biedenbach said.

Carson earned her PhD in civil engineering and said she knows the difficulties that young people like Biedenbach face in entering STEM related fields.

“As a female civil engineer who also attended a community college in Washington State, I can relate to a lot of the aspects of these programs and what it would have meant to have a program like this available,” she said.

Carson said the STEM grant would go to create opportunities with local businesses through the MESA program and would help students such as Biedenbach by creating internships with private and public industries in the area.

The money will be used to explore such opportunities and Carson said it will eventually create work opportunities for internships for credit for students of the college.

“Some students may be able to take advantage of opportunities that don’t pay and some may not,” Carson said, adding that the grant money will give students hands-on opportunities that four year universities often look at when making admission decisions.

For students like Biedenbach the money could mean an opportunity to work in an industry suited to her dreams, and Biedenbach said she thought the money would go to a program that helped her formulate those dreams.

“I was one of two females in my first classes that I took at the college,” Biedenbach said. “Jodi has been a good example and given us all a lot of encouragement. When I started school didn’t know where to go and she helped me understand how to apply myself to things that are important to me.”

Eli Sedillo, another student in the MESA program, said Carson and the program had also been beneficial to him in setting the course for his dreams.

Sedillo said he plans to graduate OC and also wants to go to University of Washington to earn a degree in physics and hopes to work with new energy sources to fuel space exploration.

“I am first generation in attending college and MESA is like a support net,” he said. “I think the most beneficial thing about the MESA program is having Jodi there to help.”

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