George Mason University: Mason teams with Dominion Energy, HACU for Summer Bridge Program

George Mason University has partnered with Dominion Energy and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) to create a Summer Bridge Program designed to further expose Latino/a high school students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and establish a source of STEM-oriented students to support the energy industry.

The Summer Bridge Program, which is going on now at Mason, is part of Dominion’s Building Hispanic Talent Initiative, a three-year, $2 million program that will benefit more than 1,250 students at seven colleges and universities while also allowing them to earn college credits. The seven-week Summer Bridge Program provides mentoring and tutoring, as well as career awareness and exploration seminars.

The mission and work of Mason’s Early Identification Program (EIP) and the Student Transition Empowerment Program (STEP) align well with the goal of this talent initiative, said Khaseem Davis, the director of EIP.

“For me, it’s very satisfying because I think about my own experience, not really having access to any of this, not really having programs like this when I was growing up,” Davis said. “When I got to college, I didn’t even know what college credits were. I didn’t know what a career was. So being able to provide students this information and kind of help them to demystify and debunk these ideas that they can’t achieve whatever goals they set is very satisfying.”

Mason is among the seven higher education institutions in Virginia, North Carolina, Connecticut, Utah, and Puerto Rico in the initiative.

“All students should have access to a quality education and the many doors an advanced degree provides,” said Carter Reid, executive vice president and chief of staff for Dominion Energy. “This is a step toward improving equity for Hispanic students and increasing diversity in STEM careers.”

Focused on Latino students, the Summer Bridge Program is also open to other historically marginalized groups as well and will be customized for each of the seven pilot institutions. The program introduces students to STEM careers and the energy industry, as well as acclimating them to a university campus and the rigors of academic life. Each student will participate in and receive college credit for college-level courses in engineering, business, cybertechnology and biotechnology.

Approximately 40 students are attending the inaugural Summer Bridge Program at Mason that began on June 27 and runs through July 29. The program will culminate with a student trip to Dominion Energy’s North Anna Nuclear Power Station in Louisa, Virginia.

“Our new partnership with Dominion Energy is a substantial investment in the success of our Hispanic students in the vital field of energy development and services, an undeniable necessity in ensuring the prosperity of our nation,” said Antonio R. Flores, HACU president and CEO. “We are excited to launch this new initiative at seven higher education institutions to foster skilled professionals able to meet the needs of the energy industry.”

Emma Toggia is one such student who is making the most of this summer opportunity. The 17-year-old rising senior at Alexandria City (formerly T.C. Williams) High School said she’s enjoying the two classes she’s taking as part of the First2Conserve Program, which is under the umbrella of the Building Hispanic Talent Initiative.

“I appreciate the program and what it offers us,” Toggia said. “By exposing students to this knowledge at a young age, it gives us an opportunity to expand on our career choices.”

Dominion Energy will support HACU membership costs for the participating institutions for the duration of the project. HACU membership provides all college students at these institutions access to HACU programs and services such as corporate internship programs, academic scholarships, and leadership development opportunities.

The seven schools selected to participate in the Summer Bridge Program include Mason, Northern Virginia Community College, Sampson (NC) Community College, University of Connecticut at Stamford, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez and Utah Valley University.