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Aerospace Awards STEM Scholarship to Aspiring Civil Engineer

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., July 7, 2020 – Itzel Thomas Sanchez, a Compton High School senior who graduated in the top one percent of her class, was selected by The Aerospace Corporation (Aerospace) for the 2020 Dr. Wanda M. Austin STEM Scholarship award.

As the first in her family to attend college, Sanchez will pursue undergraduate studies in civil engineering at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona this fall.

“Itzel has proven to be an outstanding student who serves as a role model for all students who are overcoming major challenges and embracing the opportunities of STEM-related careers,” said Steve Isakowitz, Aerospace president and CEO. “We are committed to nurturing Itzel’s interest for engineering with a mentoring and internship opportunity at Aerospace.”

Increasing diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is at the core of Aerospace’s outreach initiatives. The scholarship program was established by the Aerospace Board of Trustees five years ago in honor of Aerospace’s former CEO and president, Dr. Wanda M. Austin for her dedication to STEM education support. It is a pillar of Aerospace’s commitment to support STEM learning opportunities for underprivileged, minority students.

The scholarship awards up to $10,000 a year—renewable for four years—to cover college tuition and expenses to one underrepresented and underprivileged high school student who demonstrates academic excellence and strong leadership skills. Recipients also receive paid summer internships at Aerospace and are partnered with Aerospace employees who act as academic mentors and life coaches.

In addition to the one annual scholarship awardee, Aerospace also provides awards to the other top applicants for the scholarship. The scholarship awardees and runners-up are collectively known as “AeroScholars,” and are all placed in paid summer internships at Aerospace, where they get to work in such varied and interesting departments such as the Space Materials Lab, Information and Cyber Security, Software Quality and Analysis, Science and Technology Strategy, and Agile Systems Engineering. There are now 13 AeroScholars.

“Growing up in Compton, I experienced firsthand the lack of resources for STEM education, but I didn’t let that hold me back from succeeding,” said Sanchez. “I’m grateful that I now have that support from Aerospace so that I can realize my dream of attending college and becoming an engineer.”

Sanchez, who is interning in the Acquisition Support and Information Department this summer, sought out extra STEM coursework through advanced placement classes and has led both the FIRST Robotics and Solar Cup teams for her high school. Last year, her team also placed third in Aerospace’s Robert H. Herndon Memorial Science Competition, which was established by Aerospace in 1977 to continue Herndon’s legacy of mentorship. Competition events are designed to stimulate and promote interest among underprivileged and minority students in STEM subjects while increasing diversity across the aerospace industry.

Sanchez has also actively worked to lead by example and inspire other young, underrepresented girls to find their passion in STEM. She previously volunteered at annual STEM events such as Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) Fest and Computer Science Expo; she plans to continue volunteering during her college career.

To be considered for this invitation-only scholarship, high school contestants are first recommended by their school counselors and principals. The students also must write an essay describing their interest in pursuing a STEM career, submit recommendation letters, academic transcripts, and a statement of financial need. Scholarship recipients are required to pursue undergraduate studies in a STEM field at a four-year college and maintain a 3.0 grade point average.

The Dr. Wanda M. Austin STEM Scholarship is funded through the Aerospace STEM Endowment Fund, which is sustained solely through employee and trustee donations, charitable organizations, and estate gifts.

About The Aerospace Corporation

The Aerospace Corporation is a national nonprofit corporation that operates a federally funded research and development center and has more than 4,600 employees. With major locations in Chantilly, Virginia; El Segundo, California; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Colorado Springs, Colorado, Aerospace addresses complex problems across the space enterprise and other areas of national and international significance through agility, innovation, and objective technical leadership. For more information, visit Follow us on X: @AerospaceCorp.


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Dianna Ramirez
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