Boeing’s investment of $25 million – combined with an equal amount contributed by Microsoft and matched by the state of Washington – is enabling nearly 14,000 students to earn technology degrees within the decade.
So far, scholarships have been awarded to 5,500 low- and middle-income students in Washington state, with nearly 60 percent being the first members of their families to attend college, according to Stan Deal, Boeing senior vice president - Commercial Aviation Services and a member of the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship board of directors.
Addressing more than 300 community and political leaders in Seattle on Tuesday, Deal noted that Boeing has “a vision of a future in which all students have access to educational opportunities so that they can develop their skills, pursue their dreams and build a better world.
“We are investing billions of dollars to design and produce the next generation of airplanes right here in Washington,” Deal added. “Through the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, we are also investing in the next generation of employees in our community so that they can learn the skills they need to capture opportunities that Boeing and other leading companies are creating.”
Established five years ago, the scholarship provides financial assistance, creates research opportunities and matches recipients with mentors in business and technology. That includes Boeing Engineering leaders who mentor the students pursuing both undergraduate and advance degrees through of the Opportunity Scholarship program.
The public-private scholarship “ensures that our kids, who grew up here, have the opportunity to get a high-tech degree,” said former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, adding that the program will enable the state’s leading companies to remain “among the best in the world.”
Mahdi Ramadan, who is using his scholarship to research applying computer technology to assist individuals with neurological disorders, told the crowd, “My dreams are scary big, but so are the dreams of thousands of individuals like me.”
Ramadan recounted how his family immigrated to the United States, when he was 11 years old, after being evacuated by U.S. Marines on a humanitarian mission during civil strife in Lebanon. The scholarship gives individuals “an opportunity to follow their dreams despite the financial limitations of their families,” the University of Washington student said.
Microsoft President Brad Smith, keynote speaker at the event to raise funds for additional scholarships, noted that Washington currently has more than 20,000 unfilled jobs in science, technology, engineering and healthcare.
“This program is all about empowering the next generation so they can achieve more,” Smith said. By training the next generation of researchers, engineers and technical employees, the scholarship also “solves problems for all of our companies and for the economy as a whole.”
By Chris Villiers