PCC partners with Hacienda CDC, Verizon to open STEM center for youth and adults

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Vicky Lopez Sanchez, Executive Dean of K-12 & Community Partnerships, tours the new JDLC.

Vicky Lopez Sanchez, PCC’s executive dean of K-12 & Community Partnerships, tours the new JDLC.

Adults and youth in Southeast Portland have access to new and vital connections to cutting-edge technology, STEM education, and career development opportunities with the launch of a community-driven learning center at Portland Community College.

The Verizon Community Forward Jade District Learning Center, one of three centers launched by Verizon in partnership with Hacienda CDC through Verizon Community Forward, is removing barriers between low-income Portlanders and the tech resources they need to succeed in a digital world. These learning centers are designed for all ages, with high-speed internet access, advanced technology, and educational and career programming at no cost to individuals. This location on Portland Community College’s Southeast Campus will reach traditional and nontraditional students with an increasingly diverse population.

“Everyone deserves access to the technology and resources they need to be successful in today’s digital world,” said Rudy Reyes, West Region Vice President & Deputy General Counsel at Verizon. “On behalf of Verizon, we are proud of our partnership with Hacienda to enable both youth and adults to develop the skills, knowledge and capabilities for a more promising future in the Portland community.”
Sebastian Bishop (program coordinator with Hacienda CDC) shows Ernesto Fonseca (Hacienda CEO) items made in the learning center.

Sebastian Bishop (program coordinator with Hacienda CDC) shows Ernesto Fonseca (Hacienda CEO) items made in the learning center.

In partnership with Verizon, Hacienda CDC was selected to support the development of three learning centers in Portland. Open to students, community members and the public, the centers are in spaces that serve different demographics: at Hacienda’s headquarters in Cully, mostly BIPOC youth and adults; at New Columbia, mostly high school students, and at Portland Community College’s Southeast Campus, a diverse student body and community.

“More than 60% of the families Hacienda serves in its affordable housing and programs access the internet only through their smartphones. That’s a huge barrier when you’re trying to participate in school, fill out a job application, or manage your business only through your phone,” said Ernesto Fonseca, CEO, Hacienda CDC. “Latinos, who are a large portion of families served by Hacienda, are among the communities who are under-resourced when it comes to technology. They make up only 8% of STEM workers despite being 18.5% of the U.S. population.”

Known for developing affordable housing throughout metro Portland, Hacienda takes a holistic approach to building communities that goes beyond housing. The new Verizon Community Forward learning centers exemplify how Hacienda’s programs and pathways remove barriers to education, careers, and wealth- building for low-income families — especially for Latinos and communities of color who historically have been shut out of opportunities. Everyday challenges continue to magnify the barriers that low-income households face — such as not having internet or devices at home— which unfairly limit their opportunities to succeed at school and at work.

“Thanks to Verizon and a partnership with Hacienda, the learning center will help increase digital access, literacy and STEM learning opportunities for low-income families and communities,” said PCC President Dr. Adrien Bennings. “PCC is Oregon’s largest post-secondary institution and one of the most diverse institutions in the state. With a focus on equitable student access and success, it is our mission to drive outreach and support for underrepresented populations. This is just another example of that effort.”

Recognizing the value of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEM/STEAM), PCC has created an environment that promotes creativity and hands-on learning. Campuses are equipped with dedicated creative STEM centers that offer students and community members the opportunity to explore STEAM and STEM. These spaces provide access to an impressive array of equipment, including 3D printers, vinyl cutters, sewing machines, laser cutters, and much more.

Open lab hours are a key feature of these spaces, allowing anyone from the community to drop in and start creating. This inclusive approach encourages a culture of innovation and collaboration both inside and outside the classroom.

PCC has STEAM centers like the Jade District Learning Center at each main campus. For more information, visit the STEAM Center webpage.

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Vicky Lopez Sanchez, Executive Dean of K-12 & Comm Partnerships, tours the new JDLC.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, is the Director of Public Relations at Portland Community College. A graduate of Portland State University, James has worked as a section editor for the Newberg Graphic... more »