In ninth grade, she applied to join SMASH, an organization that provides hands-on opportunities and resources for students of color who are interested in STEM careers. Through SMASH, she delved into pre-calculus, tried her hand at coding, learned the basics of biology and computer science – and worked her way up to an internship in the summer of 2022 at Collins Aerospace, a Raytheon Technologies business.
“It allowed me to not feel like I was behind from the starting point,” said Gomez Peña, who attends the University of California Davis and who worked on engine control systems during her internship. “Having those classes motivated me to continue going with engineering and not give up. I don’t have any engineers in my family, so I was able to see what a future in engineering could look like, and I was able to pursue it.”
Gomez Peña’s story with SMASH is an example of why the organization is a strategic partner in Raytheon Technologies’ Connect Up initiative – and of how such programs can help develop a strong, diverse and inclusive pipeline of talent both in the near term and for future generations.
Bridging the gap
The SMASH/Raytheon Technologies partnership helps students:
- Build technical skills and STEM confidence starting in ninth grade and continuing through college.
- Attend college by providing financial assistance.
- Secure early internships.
“Our goal with programs like SMASH is to break down barriers that students from underrepresented groups face when pursuing careers in tech and engineering, and to provide a direct path to employment at a company like ours,” said Kristy Becerra, director of corporate social responsibility at Raytheon Technologies.
Starting in 2024, she said, the company's summer work experience programs will host 1,000 highly qualified students of color and women who will work closely with hundreds of Raytheon Technologies mentors.
“It’s important to build these relationships early to encourage persistence in STEM careers and to build a diverse talent pool we can recruit from directly,” Becerra said. “They’ve already got a leg up in consideration for future jobs with the company.”