Sandia LabNews

Virtual volunteer events a silver lining in a year of uncertainty

Image of Debbie Senesky's daughter participates in a hands-on STEM activity
EXPLORING STEM — The daughter of Debbie Senesky, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University, enjoys a hands-on STEM activity during a March 2021 virtual Women’s History Month celebration organized by Sandia, Scientific Adventures for Girls and Stanford University. (Photo by Debbie Senesky)

Sandia is committed to serving our nation and supporting communities by promoting family stability and educational success, annually contributing $1.4 million in corporate grants via impactful partnerships with local nonprofits in California and New Mexico.

In California alone, $175,000 was awarded in fiscal year 2021 to nonprofit organizations working to ensure that all students and families have equitable opportunities and access so they can thrive. In addition to grant money, Sandia contributed passion and ingenuity through its many volunteers, magnifying the impact in the lives of the families and future STEM leaders served.

“Although this past year brought challenges and uncertainty, virtual functions were a silver lining,” said Kayla Norris, community relations specialist at Sandia’s California site. “We saw community volunteer opportunities move beyond geographical borders, resulting in an expanded impact of Sandia’s community outreach.”

“It was gratifying to see virtual interactions and collaborations between hundreds of students and families in California, New Mexico and across the country,” Kayla said, expressing appreciation for the generous contributions volunteers across the Labs made through their time, passion and talent.

Mentoring future leaders of innovation

Sandia showed support for future leaders of innovation through a wide variety of educational outreach opportunities.

In March 2021, eight volunteers from the Labs navigated a new online platform to participate in the virtual Alameda County Science and Engineering Fair. Sandians mentored more than 200 young scientists and future professionals as they presented their STEM projects.

Image of Fertile GroundWorks in Livermore, Calif.
HARVESTING KINDNESS — Volunteers at Fertile GroundWorks in Livermore, Calif., help harvest fresh vegetables for families in need in the Bay Area. (Photo by Tatiana Del Cid)

Volunteers also led virtual Women’s History Month celebrations in March 2021. These energizing online gatherings kicked off with the Building the Future: Women in STEM event organized by Sandia, Scientific Adventures for Girls and Stanford University. More than 80 California and New Mexico families of elementary school students enjoyed virtual dance parties and STEM demonstrations about climate change. They also performed at-home experiments, constructing marshmallow geodesic dome crafts and exploring chemistry by making flubber soap.

Another March 2021 event brought together more than 300 high school and college students across America as they tuned in for Finding Your Path: Climate Action Careers. This inspiring online event featured Sandia and Department of Energy women panelists who shared about their careers in climate action impact.

In April 2021, Sandia volunteers led virtual innovation stations at the STEM Day for Girls PREP Activity. More than 30 middle school problem-solvers from California and New Mexico teamed together online while collaborating with seven Sandia and three Dublin High volunteers to solve a hypothetical bubonic plague scenario.

Promoting family stability by feeding those in need

Image of Second Harvest Food Bank in Manteca, Calif.
PROVIDERS — Sandians and their families volunteered to help Second Harvest Food Bank in Manteca, Calif., provide food for people in need in San Joaquin County. (Photo by Tatiana Del Cid)

Sandia has also consistently partnered with nonprofit organizations to support the nutritional needs of local communities.

Fertile Ground-Works in Livermore, Calif., hosted four Sandia Serves events at their community garden between October 2020 and January 2021. In total, almost 40 Sandia volunteers — including interns, staff and managers — barreled compost, prepared plant beds, cultivated seedlings and planted many types of vegetables. Their actions are helping Fertile GroundWorks grow 20,000 pounds of fresh produce yearly to feed families in need throughout the Bay Area.

Families in the California Central Valley have also been assisted by Sandia’s community outreach efforts. In April 2021, ten Sandia volunteers helped the Second Harvest Food Bank in Manteca pack and ship an estimated 1,083 meals to local families throughout the region.

Continuing to serve our local communities

“Looking back on a fruitful year of generous volunteering, Sandia is both proud and grateful for the heart and dedication Sandians consistently bring to local community outreach events,” Kayla said.

Since nonprofits rely on the generosity of passionate volunteers to carry out many vital community functions, the Sandia Community Outreach team will continue to plan Sandia Serves and community outreach events in the future.