Education and Youth Outreach Policy
Council President Lightner has always been passionate about education and mentoring youth towards meaningful careers, especially in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STE(A)M) industries. STE(A)M related industries are currently some of the fastest growing sectors in the nation, yet they face a serious job skills gap.
Sherri believes that by connecting San Diego's youth to resources and programs that strengthen their STE(A)M education, they can receive information and resources to help them succeed while supporting industries that are so vital to San Diego's economy.
In order help prepare San Diego's young adults for in-demand jobs, in 2013 Council President Lightner initiated "Connecting to Careers." Now known as CONNECT2Careers (C2C), the summer employment program provides work experiences to young adults in the tech and biotech industry. Lightner helped C2C secured funding in 2014, and placed 334 young adults into summer jobs with 176 employers. In 2015, C2C, now recruiting year-round, placed 884 young adults in summer jobs with 77 employers.
Council President Lightner has worked hard to support student-geared STE(A)M organizations and events in San Diego, such as FIRST Robotics, Girls In Engineering, CyberSecurity Hack-a-Thons and the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering. These events provide STE(A)M-related interactive and hands-on activities, encourage youth to compete in innovation, and strive to engage students and families in science and engineering. Through these STE(A)M events, she hopes to help facilitate an education, skill, and career path for young people who might not otherwise have discovered an interest in science and technology.
She advocates for organizations that get young and emerging entrepreneurs and inventors involved in using cutting-edge technology. She has worked with non-profits, like Fab Lab and WetLab, which provide STE(A)M education programs for children, and gives them access to professional manufacturing equipment and teaches them processes in innovation. Both FabLab and WetLab now have permanent labs set up in the La Jolla Public Library, located in District One.
In 2015, Lightner initiated the “Bridges to Education Program.” The Bridges Program links students with employees from the City to guide them as they tackle STEM-based civic projects. The Program provides real-world tasks normally addressed by the City, for which the students can present solutions and see potential results and applications. The City invites other agencies, non-profits or community members to participate in the Program if their mission aligns with the project. The Program also provides City employees with the opportunity to mentor and connect to youth in the community and help foster the next generation of civic leaders.
In the first year, students completed four projects via the Bridges Program, including “Camp of Tomorrow”, a landfill and recycling center tour to envision ‘Zero Waste’; “Architecture Project 2015”, the repurposing of the former downtown library into a veteran’s center; “Campus Climate Action Plan”, the development of a Climate Action Plan for their campus; and “Improving our Parks,” designing elements for several neighborhood parks. There are already sevral projects planned for 2016-17, including a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) water quality monitoring project and a second architecture project to create an “Innovation Center”. Feedback to date from teachers, students, city staff and partners has been positive and overwhelming.
The Program was highlighted at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Conference and EXPO in Denver in 2015, and the “Bridges to Education” documentary, produced by Lightner’s office, debuted on October 2016 at the San Diego International Film Festival.