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Local Scholarship Aims to Show Riverside Students the Possibilities in a STEM Career

Six Riverside Unified high school seniors were recently awarded $500 STEM scholarships through a program started by Western Water District board Vice President Gracie Torres.

Seeing a lack of women and people of color represented in STEM(science, technology, engineering and math) careers motivated Torres to start the scholarship.

“I just hope to expose them to the different options there are in STEM aside from just being a doctor or you know being a researcher," said Torres. "There are so many options and I think my story is one that tells that narrative.”

Torres, is the first Latina to serve on the board of the Western Municipal Water District. She is also a water chemist for Riverside County and a professor at Cal State San Bernardino.

She named the scholarship for her grandmother Beca Angelita who Torres said believed deeply in the power of education. Angelita, had humble beginnings in Durango, Mexico where she started a family young and did not finish high school, but her love of education led her to donate land to build a local school. "I think she would be proud if she could see what her name is doing now," said Torres. "I just think it would just be unbelievable from where she came.”

The scholarships came out of funds that Torres squirreled away for over two years from a stipend she receives as an elected official. She plans to start a foundation in order to continue to offer this opportunity next year.

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