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WSOS scholar Lyn Boyd speaks at the Opportunity Talks breakfast in Seattle (Photo via WSOS)

We’re in the midst of our largest philanthropic fundraising effort of the year. And we hope you can join us in making a pledge to Geeks Give Back, our annual drive to boost STEM education in Washington state.

Since we kicked off the Geeks Give Back campaign at the GeekWire Summit just over a month ago, we’ve raised $1.1 million for the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, a unique public-private partnership that provides scholarships to deserving students who are pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.

We’re proud to work with Bank of America on this year’s Geeks Give Back campaign, and thrilled that Seattle area angel investor Gary Rubens of the Rubens Family Foundation has agreed to match all gifts of $250 or more. You can go here to make your donation, or to learn more about mentoring an Opportunity Scholar.

Microsoft president Brad Smith (WSOS photo)

Our goal with the Geeks Give Back campaign is simple: Make sure that low-income students have the access they need to pursue their dreams. The technology community in Seattle has long relied on importing brain power to fill jobs — whether in software engineering or medicine. With WSOS, we’re hopeful that a larger percentage of the jobs of the future will be filled by those who grew up in Washington state.

Those are people like Lyn Boyd, a WSOS scholar who received a B.S. in biology from the University of Washington-Bothell and now is the youngest member of Seattle Children’s therapeutic cell production corps. She described the WSOS as a “whole family of nerds” who believed in her, helping to build confidence and connections in the community. Inspired in part by a talk given by Rubens, Boyd said she realized that “grit and hard work will open doors, if I keep knocking.”

Since it was formed in 2011, the WSOS has served more than 8,600 students across the state, and the goal is to boost that number in a big way. By 2025, WSOS hopes to have served more 16,000 students.

“This is a program about creating opportunity for people who otherwise would not have it,” said Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith, the chair of the WSOS. “Here is a program that has benefitted people pursuing careers that we need for jobs that are being created that we can’t fill.”

The WSOS also is committed to making sure that more women and people of color receive scholarships. The most recent class of WSOS scholars represents this push: 56 percent are women; 65 percent are students of color; and 68 percent are first-generation college students.

And while the WSOS is helping the region fill new jobs, Smith noted that it is most importantly “opening doors for more people.” Here’s more from the WSOS scholars, and don’t forget to make your donation to Geeks Give Back today.

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