Here I will give some of the things that motivate me to work on the Institute, and then I will ask you to donate to us! You will see lots of links to the donation page, so if you brush past it by mistake you will be able to donate.
The idea for the Institute came from the lack of widely available research internships for high school kids in northern New Mexico – the ones that exist are mostly available to children from connected families. But we have a vast brain trust in the form of Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Santa Fe Institute, and local companies. The idea of the institute is to couple volunteer mentors from this brain trust with highly motivated high school students.
And we do this on a shoestring: the money we raise goes into just three things: (1) student stipends and a laptop for each student, (2) serving lunches on site, (3) hiring our program manager Rhonda Crespo to be present with the students at all times.
Everything else is donated or tiny: our space is donated by the National Center for Genome Resources, our mentors and guest lecturers volunteer their time, our IT support comes from Schaefer IT Consulting; all other expense are quite small.
So we are good stewards of your donations: they go to change the lives of motivated students and that’s it.
There are other properties of the Institute which are not baked in to the design but are present in how we have implemented the design. We are inclusive while selecting by merit: we have put years of work in to developing a pipeline of students which is quite inclusive and diverse. We do this by giving guest lectures in schools in all parts of town, and by working carefully with students and families to make sure that they can take our introductory programming workshops.
The pipeline gave us remarkably competent students in 2019 and their final presentations showed a significant jump in skill. Most importantly each intern had the experience of getting lost in an open-ended problem and having to find their way back.