by Photo courtesy of San Diego Gas & Electric

These are the first scholarships given by SDG&E under its new Inspiring Future Leaders STEM Scholarship Program. Many of the recipients are first-generation college students who face financial barriers to higher education, the company said.

''Today, many jobs require a STEM education, so it's essential that we help build the talent pipeline by expanding access to higher education,'' said SDG&E CEO Caroline Winn. “Through the scholarship program, we hope to create a STEM workforce that reflects the diversity of the communities we serve.''

Scholarship winners who maintain their eligibility can have their scholarships renewed for an additional three years — meaning they could receive up to a total of $40,000 in financial aid, a company statement read.

Selected from a pool of more than 150 applicants from San Diego and southern Orange County communities served by SDG&E, the scholarship recipients are local women and students of color. Some of the college degrees being pursued by the scholarship recipients include biochemistry, biology, civil engineering, data science, marine science, mechanical engineering, neuroscience and physics.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and Pew Research, women only make up 27% of the STEM workforce, while people of color only make up 33%.

''I plan to be an example that one's family background, financial status or ethnicity does not define how far you get in life,'' said scholarship recipient Diana Garcia, who will attend UCLA in the fall to major in biochemistry. ''I am faithful to being part of an ongoing cycle that breaks the chains of poverty and changes the world for the better.''

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