Students Get Huge Success Thanks to will.i.am

credit: Credit: Christopher Polk / Getty & CYNTHIA ERENAS / LA WEEKLY

Cynthia Erenas was a young girl making bread in Tijuana not too long ago. She emigrated to Boyle Heights to go to school, but wasn’t interested in going to college. Then she discovered STEM [Science Technology Engineering Math] classes.

Now Erenas is awaiting acceptance letters from MIT and Georgia Tech and giving TED talks. This is all thanks to her work with robotics: she helped organize the first robotics team ever in Boyle Heights and won the FIRST [For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology] Robotic Competition. P.S. — she was one of 10 winners from 32,000 participants AND the only one in California.

Erenas didn’t do it alone. Musician will.i.am’s i.am.angel Foundation helped fund after school programs like Erena’s robotic competition.

“Students are the future of this neighborhood,” will.i.am said in an interview with L.A. Weekly. “And their future opportunities to have careers, versus simply jobs, depend on them having 21st-century skills like math, science, engineering and writing code.”

Erenas agrees: “When it comes to engineering and science, out here [on the Eastside] we’re always told what we can’t do. But once you help build an environment where robotics and technology and all of it can be fostered, it just becomes natural for students.”

Read more about how will.i.am and his i.am.angel Foundation are changing education in Boyle Heights here

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