Links to Brighter Futures

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San diego link achievers 1
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The Links, Inc. grows a passion for STEM in local youth with support from SDG&E®

San Diego is home to various industries based in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math. For years, STEM programs have strived to attract young people from all backgrounds and cultures. There has been a targeted push to retain these students, with companies like San Diego Gas & Electric® (SDG&E) seeing success with their Inspiring Future Leaders (IFL) charitable giving initiative. The initiative offers grants to local nonprofit organizations that inspire students from historically underrepresented backgrounds to explore the world of STEM from Kindergarten through college. This collaboration cultivates future leaders through mentoring, leadership and character development and college preparation.

Currently, SDG&E is partnered with The Links, Inc., an international nonprofit made up of professional women of color who are dedicated to community service and youth leadership development. For decades, the San Diego Chapter of The Links, Inc. has been committed to culturally and economically uplifting African Americans and those of African ancestry. As a part of this objective, the Links Achiever Program has focused on college preparation since its inception, with this year’s theme being “Energy.” Providing emphasis on mentorship, peer support in a collaborative environment, relationship building and career exposure, this leadership program aims to recognize black high school senior men who have distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, the arts, or community service, and are preparing to enter the workforce. The Links Achiever Program has been recognized on a local, regional and national level for its excellence in programming and sustainability.
Building on nearly 30 years of success with the award-winning Achiever Program, in 2014 The San Diego Links Chapter launched year-round STEM exploration opportunities for younger students with the Links 2 STEM Program. The focus of Links 2 STEM is to address the significant under‐representation of persons of color, especially women and African Americans, pursuing college degrees in STEM fields. The program accepts 35 African American students in fourth to eight-grade from across San Diego, concentrating on subjects ranging from laboratory science to computer programming, robotics and even hosts field trips. Members meet bi-weekly on Saturdays for their curriculum, mentoring and STEM projects, which involve many unique components. The seventh-grade curriculum includes robotics instruction, giving students hands on experience with the guidance of professionals in the STEM community and the chance for students to design actual rockets and build solar cars. In 2020, the San Diego Links Chapter established the local San Diego National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Junior chapter, so that these students could take part in technical competitions at the local, state, and national level.
Of the 15 high school graduates surveyed from their previous program cycle, 14 graduates are currently enrolled in college courses, and 11 graduates selected a major in a STEM discipline. The Links, Inc. continuously partners with other STEM non-profits and opportunities that will allow their students to connect with scholarships, internships, and further exposure to career pathways.
It is safe to say the future looks bright for The Links, Inc. as they play such a critical role in helping develop our next generation of leaders and bridge the gaps in STEM representation, equity, and achievement.

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Esteban Villanueva
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