By Edwin Flores
A Latina has created a platform to provide access to scholarships worth almost $38 million for Latinos and other students interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.
María Trochimezuk, 47, created IOScholarships after noticing the amount of scholarship money that went unrewarded due to the lack of applicants. The free platform gives STEM students in high school and college a place to find scholarships, internships, work opportunities, financial education and resources based upon GPA, merit and financial background.
The aim, said Trochimezuk, is to help students graduate college debt-free while boosting the number of Latinos and other students of color pursuing STEM degrees and careers.
“I always had a vision that I wanted to create a platform that would be a community,” said Trochimezuk who is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. “It’s a first of its kind because we are focusing on underrepresented and underserved students, African American, Latinos, Asian American, Native American and also we have scholarships for DACA students.”
Trochimezuk said the platform, part of the National Scholarships Provider Association (NSPA), has helped provide access to nearly 11,000 students about a diverse range of STEM scholarships that are available from foundations and corporations.
She founded the platform last March, first investing her personal savings and then securing funding for the project through a grant provided by Google’s Ureeka PowerUp program, which supports Latino-owned businesses.
In 2000, Trochimezuk moved to the U.S. on a postgraduate scholarship in marketing and public relations at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and later was selected to be a part of Stanford’s prestigious Latino entrepreneurship initiative.
She worked on public education campaigns for Google and other financial institutions that focused on Latino community support.
Through her experiences, she witnessed how much scholarship money was undistributed because students were not applying. Yet Trochimezuk said she was able to pay off her entire education with grants and scholarships.
Over the last decade, the number of scholarships awarded to students has increased by 45 percent. Yet, the NSPA estimates $100 million in scholarships go unawarded each year due to the lack of applicants.
“We opened opportunities for students with scholarships that now are going to Stanford or MIT — these are brilliant, diverse students, they’re Latino, Black students. And it’s very important that companies pay attention to this workforce because these are the innovators of the future,” she said.
Despite making up 17 percent of the total workforce across all occupations, Latinos account for 8 percent of all STEM-related jobs.
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