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geeksgiveback1-logoEvery day we hear stories about the labor shortage in the tech industry, and how not enough students are studying science, technology, engineering and math.

Well, it’s time we do something about.

Rutha Nuguse, a recipient of the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship award, speaks at GeekWire Summit.
Rutha Nuguse, a recipient of the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship award, speaks at GeekWire Summit on Thursday.

Starting today, GeekWire is taking an active role in helping to solve this critical need, launching a new program in conjunction with Bank of America to raise funds for the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship.

This new effort — announced today at the GeekWire Summit and dubbed Geeks Give Back — will help support low and middle-income students in Washington state pursue STEM degrees.

Together with Bank of America, we’ve set an ambitious goal to raise up to $500,000 over the next two months  — money that will directly impact the technology industry by helping deserving students with much-needed scholarships.

To hit this goal, we need the tech community’s help, and we’re asking companies of all sizes to get involved by making a donation to WSOS.

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Washington State Opportunity Scholarship Exec. Director Naria Santa Lucia speaks at the GeekWire Summit.

Last year, more than 780 scholarships were awarded across Washington state. Fifty two percent of all scholarship recipients are the first in their family to attend college, and more than 60 percent of scholarships go to women.

These are students like Rutha Nuguse — a third-year computer science major at the University of Washington-Tacoma and former Microsoft intern who is the first of seven children to attend college — and Mahdi Ramadan — a neurobiology major at the University of Washington-Seattle — who is working on a research project for new wireless technologies for medical devices.

GW_Summit_2015_0180Speaking at today’s GeekWire Summit, Nuguse described how the scholarship allowed her to be the first in her family to attend college and explained why it means so much to her.

“Without this scholarship, I wouldn’t be pursuing a computer science degree at the University of Washington,” Nuguse said. “And I’m sure I wouldn’t be speaking at the GeekWire Summit.”

Nuguse added that in 10 years, she’d like to open an innovation center that helps anyone — including women and people of color — be inspired to start a STEM-related career.

“Don’t ever think that you can’t impact a young person’s life,” Nuguse said.

Both WSOS recipients are telling their stories at this year’s GeekWire Summit, and we’ve been overly impressed with the brain power of the students we’ve met who participate in this unique program.

We ask that you join us in supporting Geeks Give Back, making a donation to WSOS and helping to support the next generation of scientists and engineers.

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From left to right: GeekWire co-founder, Todd Bishop, Washington State Opportunity Scholarship Exec. Director Naria Santa Lucia, GeekWire co-founder John Cook, and Bank of America Washington State President Anthony DiBlasi.

“Education is fundamental to the creation of bright economic futures for young people in Washington state,” said Anthony DiBlasi, Bank of America president for Washington state. “By partnering with GeekWire and WSOS, we’re making STEM fields more equitable and diverse, creating a homegrown STEM talent pool, which in turn helps our region’s technology companies and innovators attract and retain the most talented workforce.”

The other great thing about getting involved with WSOS is that all donations are 100 percent matched by local companies and Washington state, which means every dollar you give multiples into $4.

We’re so excited to launch Geeks Give Back, and work alongside Bank of America and WSOS to make sure that deserving students have an opportunity to pursue their dreams.

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