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TEC Program Seeks Investors, Community Support

The after school program lost its funding and needs to find a new way to survive.

Like a fledgling start-up, Watsonville TEC is looking for investors.

is an after school program that works with students from the fifth grade through high school, and also offers computer classes to parents. It's bilingual, bicultural and has reached more than 800 kids in five years.

And now it's running out of money.

"Our funding's up come August," said Jacob Martinez, the program director.

Tuesday, he will ask the Watsonville City Council to go to bat for the program. That's when two Watsonville TEC students and an instructor will receive proclamations from Watsonville Mayor Eduardo Montesino. 

“It’s not just an after school program, it’s really about economic development," said Martinez, who counts city council members Daniel Dodge and Felipe Hernandez as his supporters.

Watch a video about Watsonville TEC.

Watsonville TEC has been funded by a National Science Foundation grant, but the money runs out this summer. A grant the program had been counting on fell through. Thanks to a buy-in from the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, grant money that can be rolled over, and the support of Martinez's employer—ETR, a Scotts Valley research firm—it appears the program has cobbled together enough funds to survive the upcoming school year.

But Martinez said that means reducing the program offerings instead of growing them. The parent education component will be eliminated and Watsonville TEC will reduce the number of elementary and middle schools it provides programming at.

The funding crisis comes at a time when Watsonville TEC should be celebrating.

Watsonville High juniors  and Daisy Ramirez won awards from the National Center for Women in Information Technology this year. Stephanie earned a national honor, which essentially guarantees her a scholarship to the university of her choosing. Martinez said she's considering MIT. Daisy won a regional award. Instructor Ryan Morgan, who facilitates the Watsonville TEC program at MacQuiddy Elementary, was a regional winner for educator of the year. All will be honored at Tuesday's city council meeting.

Martinez said it's frustrating see the program's future in flux. He's tried to build a pipeline that begins with elementary school students to increase their computer skills and make them tech-savvy. The goal is to help them get into college and land good careers. Along the way, Watsonville TEC helps motivate kids to stay in school and out of trouble.

"But there’s a bigger picture here. What are we doing? We’re really training this kids for the jobs of tomorrow," said Martinez.

That's where he hopes the city council support can come in.

"We’re training all of these kids and sending them out there, but how is that benefiting our community locally if we’re just raising them and pushing them out? We’ve got to create some kind of opportunity for them to come back… and work in Watsonville or Santa Cruz County," Martinez said.

Although the future of the program is uncertain, Martinez is confident he can find a way to save Watsonville TEC.

“We have a couple leads," Martinez said. "I’m writing grants like crazy and I sent in a proposal to the Packard Foundation to help sustain the middle school program ... I need a base of supporters that see the value of developing the youth of the community in 21st Century skills”

The Watsonville City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers, fourth floor at 275 Main St.

Disclaimer: Watsonville Patch Editor Jennifer Squires in on the Community Leadership Committee for Watsonville TEC.

Quite Big Bill May 08, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Funny, but just two years ago, Bay Concert Arts once again offered to raise an unlimited amount of local educational funding through a continuing series of benefit concerts in the Taxpayers’ expensive local Mello Center. At the time, BCA was also mobilized to give PVUSD’s three high schools their own Constitutional Law programs taught by an experienced attorney and Computer Engineering programs taught by a Silicon Valley whizz kid. As usual, they just laughed in our faces. However, BCA still stands ready to provide GENUINE BENEFIT for the People of Watsonville. It’s a crying shame that perpetually poor- mouthing PVUSD and the City Government have always vigorously opposed Bay Concert Arts’ FREE local Charitable, Cultural and Educational programs. What’s up with that y’all? Or, is your Taxpayer-Funded “secret official” ban of Bay Concert Arts still a really important local governnent secret?
Jennifer Squires May 08, 2012 at 06:25 PM
I imagine Watsonville TEC would be happy to be a part of that fundraising effort, if it were offered. The program is involved in the Watsonville Film Festival (as a benefit also) so merging the arts and tech is not a foreign concept. You should talk to Jacob Martinez.
Sylvia Mendez May 08, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Watsonville Tech is an amazing program. The 4th and 5th grade students at Ann Soldo Elementary School are receiving instruction about the internet, on line searches, development of surveys and so much more. The additional teachers along with the primary teacher are middle school and high school students.What a wonderful way to give back. We need to find funds to continue this work. Sylvia Mendez, Principal at Ann Soldo School.
Quite Big Bill May 09, 2012 at 01:54 AM
As always, Bay Concert Arts stands ready, willing and uniquely able to move quickly and hit with real power. But, we have to be allowed to step out onto the local concert stage so that we can generate our own operational funding while raising money for other good causes. That’s the problem. Bay Concert Arts has been BANNED in Watsonville – by the City, PVUSD and their government insider “official arts” people – ever since they built the Mello Center. Nevertheless, we’ve still got what it takes and they never have. If we are finally given the go signal, we can launch a professional quality local benefit concert series in the Mello Center starting as early as Memorial Day weekend. Once we get that started, there will be no limit to the number or type of local benefit concerts and other events BCA can present or the local charitable funds our efforts will generate. But, we absolutely need individuals and/or groups in Watsonville to carry the local political football for us. If you’ve finally had enough of this EXPENSIVE official local blither blather….. If you’re ready to take the threatened future of Watsonville's vulnerable youth into your own capable hands, please contact Bay Concert Arts at BCAweb@BayArea.Net or (408)348-2295 Sincerely, William Kenville WHS 1971 Cabrillo College 1974 San Francisco State University 1986 Co-Founder of “Watsonville’s own” Bay Concert Arts 1988 http://bcaweb.bayarea.net
Quite Big Bill June 19, 2012 at 06:20 AM
"We need to find funds to continue this work." --- Sylvia Mendez, Principal at Ann Soldo School. OK, really? So get busy and arrange for Bay Concert Arts to raise some of those funds on my late friend Bud Kretchmer's Steinway 'D' over at the Mello Center. I helped Bud get that piano. I helped build the "piano box" and then carried it into the Mello - on my back in front of both Bud and Ann Soldo. I performed the last piano recital that Bud ever produced (at Dominican Oaks). Bud would be pleased to hear his piano played by me once again.

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