GWATA leader Rojanasthien sees big impact here from Apple STEM Network
The more I learn about the Apple STEM Network, a collaborative effort involving schools, businesses, government and nonprofits in our region, the more excited I become about how this effort can positively transform our regional economy and educational system.
The Apple STEM Network is a collaboration of Wenatchee Valley College, Eastmont, Wenatchee and Cashmere School Districts, North Central Educational Service District, Chelan County Public Utility District, and the city of Wenatchee. Washington STEM recently invested more than $100,000 to help our local network develop STEM learning here.
Rojanasthien, who with her husband Top own the Thai Restaurant in Wenatchee, which has been in our valley for 25 years, is co-director of the STEM network with Dr. Sue Kane, a researcher and scientist at Wenatchee Valley College. Rojanasthien and Kane have both been 30 Under 35 honorees and are two dynamic young leaders who are making a significant difference in our valley.
GWATA is intimately involved in encouraging technology businesses in North Central Washington and their membership rolls top 120 companies of all sizes. In the early days, they worked to help businesses understand the amazing fiber network being built here and its potential for economic development. Our valley is among the leaders in the nation in terms of broadband speed and access, thanks in large part to Chelan PUD’s leadership and significant investment. It’s a huge competitive advantage when paired with cheap electricity.
Jobs in every sector, from medical and agriculture to media and services are being transformed by technology. It is estimated that one-third of the jobs in the greater Wenatchee Valley are STEM-related, Rojanasthien told me. GWATA is committed to helping prepare our students to take on these good-paying jobs by working with schools and businesses to make sure kids are as prepared as possible for these kinds of jobs.
The Apple STEM Network was created to develop those linkages in a collaborative, cooperative fashion. That’s the right approach for this kind of work. One initiative that GWATA will be rolling out soon is a series of flyers highlighting ordinary people doing STEM jobs in our valley, Rojanasthien told me. Renee Hartman, the talented young owner of Data Web Programming, is the kind of person that they’ll be highlighting with this effort. She’s built a business in our valley providing programming for various companies and, coincidentally, has helped us here at The World on a number of occasions.
Those flyers will be distributed to schools in the valley to hopefully inspire kids to think about STEM careers and get excited about educational opportunities that will lead in that direction. Businesses can help support this effort by allowing GWATA to interview employees in STEM jobs for this effort.
I asked Rojanasthien what gives her hope and confidence that our valley is headed in the right direction. She told me that what separates this valley from any place she’s lived is the willingness by individuals and businesses to give back when called upon.
People here care and give back to an extreme degree and that sense of contribution — building a stronger, more resilient community — is an energizing force in the valley.
I couldn’t agree more.