Posted on June 21, 2012

Santa Rosa: PG&E Workers Show Students How Math, Science Skills Led to Careers

By Tracy Correa

Algebra Academy

PG&E’s Bob Steele demonstrated the importance of electric safety to Algebra Academy students. (Photos by Brittany McKannay.)

For the fourth straight year, PG&E employees in Santa Rosa helped middle-school students – all English-learners – understand and appreciate the value of math and how it can help them achieve success in their future careers.

Since 2009, PG&E has been a sponsor of the Mike Hauser Algebra Academy. The program, launched by the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce in 2008, is designed to improve algebra skills for students who are English-learners and entering high school. The program is named after the chamber’s late president who wanted to help students with language barriers gain confidence in learning algebra.

Students recently wrapped up a week of visits to the PG&E office in Santa Rosa where they heard presentations on topics ranging from energy efficiency to land surveying. They also saw an electric safety board demonstration which proved very popular with the 12-to 14-year-old students.

A total of 60 students, representing four school districts, are enrolled in the three-week program that runs from June 11 to June 29. The students receive on-site learning through employer partners — PG&E, Agilent Technologies, JDSU and Medtronic — and hear and see first-hand about the importance of math and science in a variety of careers. Two teachers oversee the students.

Students often think about becoming a  firefighter or police officer, but in the Algebra Academy they can see and talk to an engineer or a scientist and start thinking about those careers, explained Kelly Bass, director of workforce development with the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce. “And the basis for most of these jobs is math,” she said.

Kelli Nevin, PG&E government relations representative in Santa Rosa, has been involved with the academy for several years. She said the program is important because the education of young people is such an integral part of our future community, economy and workforce.

“The Algebra Academy seeks to close the achievement gap between kids who speak English as their primary language and those who do not.  Working for a company where most employees use mathematical skills every day, we have a great opportunity show students how algebra standards can be applied in real world situations,” she said.

Algebra Academy

PG&E’s Matt Spence talked about energy efficiency, and how PG&E employees use math and science in their jobs.

While at PG&E offices, students were encouraged to ask questions of the utility’s working professionals, said Chris Spears, senior electric estimator in Santa Rosa who lined up 14 speakers and presenters. PG&E employees also had lunch with the students where more informal conversations took place. The utility provided a $3,000 grant to cover student lunches during the half-day program.

It was a rewarding experience, said Spears.

“We talked to them about things like engineering, but also about becoming biologists and other jobs,” he said. “We try to tie everything back to school work and education and catapulting all that into success.”

Added Spears: “The banter between the PG&E employees and the kids really made it a special week.”

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