Think Together held its third annual Inland Empire Education and Workforce Readiness Summit in partnership with the IE Chamber of Commerce on March 15, in downtown Riverside.
The discussion for this year’s summit centered on ways to improve education and workforce development in the Inland Empire, while focusing on increasing access to quality education, preparing students for the job market and creating equitable career pathways.
The event welcomed over 200 guests from both the public and private sectors to collaborate. In addition, the event featured Think Together alum, Diego Martinez who discussed his own success story and experience in Think Together’s after-school program Hack Club.
“After School programs like the ones I was able to participate in inspired me to dream big,” Martinez said as he spoke at the event.
Martinez, who is now 20 years old began with Think Together during his Freshman year in high school.
“I didn’t really have a clear sense of what I wanted to attain when it came to higher education,” shared Martinez. He added, “Coming from a low-income family and title one high school, there weren’t too many positive reinforcements provided either.”
However, once he had the opportunity to join the vex robotics team offered by Think Together at his school West Valley, he was able to experience the engineering design process which he found interesting.
Following his positive first experience with Think Together, Martinez was able to help get prepared for his future career and higher learning with workshops offered by the non-profit.
“I was able to learn interview skills, develop my resume, and start looking beyond a typical career, and define where I want to go now which is the field of automotive within mechanical engineering,” shared Martinez.
Following these workshops, Martinez joined Think Together’s Hack Club as a student leader his senior year. This position served as an opportunity for Martinez to start his school’s first computer coding club with the help of Think together.
“By being able to engage with our students and teach them about one of the higher paying careers on the market today in computer science, we were able to really set that bar and bring more equity and more S.T.E.M careers into our lower-income neighborhoods and for our children,” Martinez said.
Hack Club also offered him the opportunity to engage with the steering committee, which is a group of adult mentors who run Hack clubs at their site. This led to the creation of the club’s hackathon event.
The event allows all students to meet virtually and hack away at one issue for the entire day. As part of the club, Martinez would co-lead its coding workshops.
“Essentially how they(workshops) run, is they’re modeled to be easily digestible for students to understand how to program in the very essential sense,” shared Martinez.
“With Hack Club, I was able to gain great presentation skills in developing and presenting this information to our members,” Martinez stated.
One of his favorite moments as a Hack Club leader occurred when he was able to introduce Tommy Brewer, Think Together’s deputy chief of innovation and partnerships at one of many Think Together events he participated in.
“Being offered opportunities outside of Hack Club with Think Together also provided good reinforcement and great professional development throughout my journey,” shared Martinez.
One of Martinez’s greatest accomplishments with Think Together occurred when he was earned its Good to Great Scholarship, which is awarded to students that embody the organization’s mission of being odds-changers while persevering in school and being actively involved in their communities.
“The Good to great Scholarship is amazing,” said Martinez. “If there are any high school students that read this article, definitely apply to it if you’re eligible,” he added.
In addition to receiving funding, Martinez was partnered with a mentor as part of the scholarship.
Martinez has used Think Together’s resources as a way to develop and progress in his education and career, and as of now, he’s currently finishing up his final year at Mt. San Jacinto, where he is hoping to transfer to a UC to pursue a major in mechanical engineering.
To Our Newsletter
Join our mailing list to receive our Weekly Wrap of top stories, each week.
Thank you for the support!
You have Successfully Subscribed!
Colton Courier - El Chicano - Rialto Record