The Columns

W&L Junior Awarded Davis Projects for Peace Grant

— by on March 28th, 2017

“If, through this program, we can motivate the students to continue their academic trajectory and make them realize that they can study STEM, then I am willing to put in all my effort to start making the difference.”

Angel Vela de la Garza Evia ’18

Angel Vela de la Garza Evia ’18, a student at Washington and Lee University, has won a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant that will allow him to conduct a three-phased STEM-related project — STEMito — for primary school students in his home city of Monterrey, Mexico.

The first phase of the STEMito project will consist of redesigning, refurbishing and equipping a public-school classroom to become a STEM center. The second phase will involve building a STEM curriculum and training the school’s teachers so they can use the newly equipped room to its full potential. The project will culminate in a month-long summer program for the school’s students, with each of the four weeks concentrating on one of the letters of STEM.

“The goal of STEMito is to expose students at the primary level to a wide variety of STEM topics in a way that they have never experienced them before,” explained Vela de la Garza Evia. “By doing so, we want to increase the curiosity and motivation that the students have towards learning STEM-related topics. In addition, our goal is to train teachers on new materials and learning methodologies related to STEM so that they can implement them in their classrooms throughout the academic year.”

The project is a perfect fit for Vela de la Garza Evia, who is a Bonner scholar and is studying chemistry and engineering. “This project combines my passion to serve with my interest in sharing what I learn in my own classes,” he said.

“STEMito is an inspiring project,” said Mark Rush, director of international education and Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law. “Angel will return to his home to encourage primary school students in Escuela Eduardo Caballero Escamilla to learn more about and consider careers in the STEM fields.”

Vela de la Garza Evia will collaborate with students from Universidad de Monterrey, American School Foundation of Mexico High school and faculty.

“The program combines Angel’s curriculum of study with his profound desire to assist children in a school that does not receive government funding,” said Rush. “Accordingly, working with the students and his collaborators, Angel will offer what could be a life-changing experience for these children as he opens their eyes to the mystery and beauty of the STEM fields.”

For Vela de la Garza Evia, the grant represents an opportunity to make a positive impact in his country. “We will show students the wide array of pursuable options that are out there, that otherwise they would have never known existed,” he said. “If, through this program, we can motivate the students to continue their academic trajectory and make them realize that they can study STEM, then I am willing to put in all my effort to start making the difference.”

As a partner school of the Davis United World College Scholars Program, Washington and Lee University is eligible to receive Davis Projects for Peace grants. The program is funded by the late Kathryn Wasserman Davis, who established it on her 100th birthday in 2007 as a way to challenge young people to plant seeds of peace throughout the world with innovative projects. At least one Washington and Lee student has won a Davis grant each year since the award’s inception.