Empowering communities along the West Coast for a better tomorrow

May 05, 2023     

Empowering future STEM stars

The San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering, spearheaded by Biocom California’s nonprofit affiliate Generation STEAM, brings to life that science and technology is in everything we do, every day, and advocates for investment in STEM education as an effective way to build a secure socio-economic environment for all.

"It's important for our students in California to be able to be exposed to careers in the life science and biotech industries. It's so important to build these skills at such an early age — even in kindergarten teaching the love of science and engineering and math."
Howard Chan, education program manager, Generation STEAM

Bristol Myers Squibb served as a gold sponsor of the 15th annual festival in 2023. The event, held at Petco Park, is open to the public, free and right on the public transport line, which brings anywhere from 15,000 to 24,000 kids and parents together to explore and participate in hands-on activities to learn about the field of STEM from robotics and reptiles, to COVID-19 vaccinations. Not only is the festival an opportunity for children to have access to incredible hands-on activities and diverse role models, but it is a great chance to show children, parents, teachers and the community as a whole just how dynamic the STEM industry is in San Diego.

A Bristol Myers Squibb employee demonstrates a molecule building activity to curious students at the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering.

“Bristol Myers Squibb employees were able to really engage the kids and get kids to understand what it is that they do. So, for me, the thing that stood out was the quality of volunteers that Bristol Myers Squibb brought out — they were friendly, able to explain complex scientific concepts to a range of ages and a good representation of the company.”
Silvana DelPiccolo, director of community relations, Generation STEAM

Nearly 20 Bristol Myers Squibb volunteers from the San Diego site attended the 2023 festival, leading activities on molecule modeling, microscopy and DNA building, engaging with curious kids by breaking down scientific concepts in an easy-to-understand way. One-on-one and hands-on interactions like this are a major part of what makes the festival so valuable for the community and critical in piquing interest in STEM for young minds. Generation STEAM also recognizes the challenges of keeping teachers up-to-date in an industry that is constantly evolving. Year-round programming complementary to the festival offers teacher professional development to ensure that educators have knowledge of and access to cutting-edge technologies and quality STEM education.

Bristol Myers Squibb also proudly supports STEM education initiatives over 1,000 miles north of San Diego up the coast in Seattle. The Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) program connects the state’s leading industries with top talent by reducing barriers to STEM education, offering trainings and facilitating entry into high-demand careers for students in the state. Each year, the WSOS program selects 1,275 students for each of the bachelor’s degree program and the technical career scholarship and has supported over 14,000 scholars to date. Recipients represent every county and legislative district in the state, and most are students of color, first-generation college students or women. One hundred percent are from low- or middle-income families throughout Washington state.

Bristol Myers Squibb has funded over 60 technical career and baccalaureate scholarships since 2019 to support diverse students pursuing STEM careers. Our contributions to WSOS are matched dollar for dollar by the state of Washington, extending our impact even further.

Scholars with the Washington State Opportunity program gather to tackle homework together.

Throughout the course of WSOS’ and Bristol Myers Squibb’s relationship, 32 volunteers from Bristol Myers Squibb have participated in the program as industry mentors, essay reviewers, panelists, organizers and tour guides. Perhaps the most uplifting statistic for WSOS and Bristol Myers Squibb is that baccalaureate scholars can typically earn twice what their families were earning within five years of graduating. Career and technical scholars earn three times what their families made within just two years of graduation.

“How do you really change intergenerational cycles of poverty? It's by removing barriers and creating access to opportunities for promising people who want to succeed and need some of these unfair systemic barriers moved out of the way so that they can do that.”
Kimber Connors, executive director, WSOS

Easing the burden of equitable access

El Concilio of San Mateo County is committed to increasing education, employment and access to quality of life services to underserved communities in San Mateo County. Transportation assistance for the sick and elderly, health and wellness programming, emergency services are just a few of the ways El Concilio serves the county’s residents.

In 2022, Bristol Myers Squibb supported El Concilio with contributions to the organization’s health and wellness programs and emergency services.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, El Concilio workers helped reduce barriers to healthcare by providing information on where and how to sign up for vaccines, creating appointments and providing transportation to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. El Concilio team members also handed out COVID-19 tests and distributed critical information on how individuals could stay healthy and avoid spreading the illness.

Members of El Concilio gather with one another to discuss priorities for the local community.

In addition to supporting physical health, El Concilio supports the local elderly community by offering transportation services, like going to and from the hospital, helping them run errands, including printing important documents or even liaising with service providers to ensure no one loses access to critical utilities, such as water or air conditioning.

“That’s what I’m excited about and what I want the world to know about El Concilio — that we’re not just providing services but we’re also a training program of sorts for our communities.”
Ana Angel Avendano, executive director, El Concilio (San Mateo County)

On top of the valuable services El Concilio provides to the community, the organization opens access to leadership pipelines through its Promotores program, which offers trainings on different community topics from health and wellness to climate education. The long-term vision of the Promotores program is for those involved to eventually serve on El Concilio’s board, so that local leaders can have direct input on how El Concilio can address community needs.

Putting food on the table

Second Harvest is building a hunger-free community by distributing nutritious food to nearly every neighborhood in Silicon Valley, leveraging food resources and collaborating with local organizations to fight hunger. The counties that make up the Silicon Valley Santa Clara and San Mateo are two of the most expensive areas to live in the United States where higher costs of living make it difficult for underserved communities to survive on minimum wage jobs. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Second Harvest served approximately 250,000 people per month. During the pandemic, and still to this day, that number has nearly doubled, now hovering around feeding 450,000 people each month. 

“Our clients are making very difficult choices every day between paying their rent, buying food, paying for their medication, buying food, students paying for tuition, or buying food. There is still a stigma about food insecurity. We don't judge, we don't discriminate, we don't ask questions. We truly believe that whoever shows up at the distribution needs food.”
Lejla Bojer, senior corporate philanthropy officer, Second Harvest

Bristol Myers Squibb has supported Second Harvest since 2006 and has provided over 355,000 meals to date and counting. Employees also volunteer annually at the food bank. In 2022, Bristol Myers Squibb helped provide food for more than 114,000 meals across over 900 sites, serving an average of 460,000 people each month, including 127,000 children. Bristol Myers Squibb’s contributions will help enable continued expansion of operations in the Silicon Valley to meet the increased need for food assistance with the COVID-19 pandemic and additional economic challenges due to inflation, increased costs of housing, food and fuel.

Second Harvest volunteer offers canned goods to local community member.

Aside from providing food, Second Harvest also offers nutrition education – an essential service for those facing food insecurity, as finding the next meal can be more important than finding quality food. Their nutrition department has about 70 nutritional ambassadors who go to distribution sites and teach clients how to create nourishing meals with the ingredients that they have been given. This program leaves clients with nutritious food and a collection of recipes – often in their preferred language – breaking down barriers to nutritious eating and ultimately helping to reduce the risk of chronic disease.

These nonprofit organizations are just four of the many that Bristol Myers Squibb supports along the West Coast and across the country. As we work to bring life-saving medicines to patients with serious diseases, Bristol Myers Squibb is also committed to working together to help build and sustain strong, inclusive, diverse and equitable communities, locally and globally.

To learn more about career opportunities with Bristol Myers Squibb in California and Washington state, visit each of our regional hub pages.

related articles