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Bank of America Senior Vice President Kim Vu and Washington State Opportunity Scholarship executive director Naria K. Santa Lucia kick off the Geeks Give Back program at the 2017 GeekWire Summit. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire)

Like many places around the world, Washington state has a talent crisis. The state creates thousands of highly skilled jobs every year in industries like technology and medicine — but it trains just a fraction of the people needed to fill those jobs.

Geeks Give Back: Support the next generation of world-changing innovators and engineers. Donate here to the campaign.

At the same time, rising tuition rates put college and technical training out of reach for thousands of students across the state, leaving innovative, hard-working Washingtonians no way into these highly skilled roles.

That’s why GeekWire teamed up with Bank of America three years ago to launch the Geeks Give Back program, an annual drive that raises funds for the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) and supports a diverse population students studying STEM in Washington state.

Thanks to the generosity of organizations and individuals in our community, our inaugural campaign raised more than $500,000. Last year, we more than doubled that number, raising $1.27 million.

And this year, we’re back at it again.

At the GeekWire Summit on Tuesday, we launched the third annual Geeks Give Back campaign with the goal of raising another $1 million to support STEM education in Washington state.

The campaign and the new goal were announced today at the GeekWire summit by Naria K. Santa Lucia, executive director of the WSOS, and Kim Vu, a senior vice president at Bank of America.

“We know that when we invest in local talent, we’re also investing in the future of the state of Washington,” Vu said.

The state of Washington will make that investment even more impactful by matching every donation dollar-for-dollar, giving donors a chance to double their impact. The Rubens Family Foundation, a longtime supporter of WSOS and the Geeks Give Back campaign, will also be matching all donations over $250, up to $250,000.

That means donations will be quadrupled with matching gifts.

Santa Lucia also said there is another way to help support WSOS: become a mentor to one of the scholarships’ students.

“We have thousands, and they’re all looking for industry partners to step up and show them the ropes and show them the way,” Santa Lucia said.

Visit GeeksGiveBack.org/donate to make a donation or find another way to get involved, and learn more about the program at the WSOS Opportunity Talks Breakfast on Nov. 2.

WSOS supports a diverse group of low- and middle-income students studying tech, science, math, and engineering in Washington state, like Jordana Dahmen, who shared her story at last year’s GeekWire Summit, and Citlaly Ramirez, who will speak about her experience as a WSOS scholar during the GeekWire Summit Wednesday.

The organization is dedicated to increasing diversity in STEM: Over half of the scholars that WSOS supports are students of color, almost 60 percent of all scholars are the first-generation college students, and 57 percent of the scholars are female.

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