Rhonda Hayes's activities are not confined to her job description as Support Manager in the Information Technology Division of Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. In her "spare" time, she is busy working with the MESA Schools Program at her alma mater, CSU Long Beach.
Hayes has made it her mission to expose MESA middle school and high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds to engineers at Raytheon. She herself grew up in modest circumstances in South Los Angeles and was the first in her family to graduate from college. After earning her associate degree from Los Angeles City College in 1978, she worked for many years as a project manager in architectural firms. In 1995, she returned to college to study engineering.
Hayes says she is motivated to work with MESA because as an engineering student, the program helped her achieve her goals. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in computer engineering in 2000 and went to work with Raytheon the same year.
Hayes says that as a student, she practically lived in the MESA study center. "I could go there at night and feel safe. It was located right in the school of engineering and it had all we needed, including computers for research and a microwave oven."
The MESA study groups and the ability to network with other MESA students were important, she believes. "We got to work with students enrolled in the same classes with the same goals," she says.
Hayes also appreciates the exposure to the high tech industry that MESA affords students. "The MESA career fairs allowed us to get to know company recruiters," she says. " MESA students have an edge because MESA teaches them how to talk about themselves and what they've learned."
Last year Hayes was instrumental in persuading Raytheon to host Senior MESA Day for the CSU Long Beach center, where 350 high school students competed in hands-on math and engineering contests. This year Raytheon also hosted Junior MESA Day where over 700 middle school students participated. Hayes recruited a cadre of Raytheon employees to serve as judges and mentors for the events.
Hayes expects that the MESA Days for the CSU Long Beach center will be sponsored by Raytheon every year. Beyond that, she has a goal of tracking the students as they move through the educational system. "I want to offer them internships at Raytheon at some point," she says.
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